Joan Miró, 'A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem)' 1938
Joan Miró
A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem) 1938
© Succession Miro/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

André Masson and Joan Miró were amongst the first artists to develop the idea of ‘automatic drawing’. Trying to put down lines intuitively, without thinking about the forms they might take was, the surrealists believed, a way of coming close to the impulses and thoughts that lay at the core of the psyche. The technique had first been used by the poets of the movement, who invented ‘automatic writing’, allowing words to flow unbidden from the lower levels of the mind and creating verbal images that they found all the more compelling for being illogical.

With their sinuous lines and sculpted curves, the works in this room evoke the tactile nature of desire; as if, in suggesting the rounded contours of a lover’s body, the artists were trying to capture an imprinted memory of touch.