Automatic Drawing

Jean Arp

Automatic drawing

Automatic drawing was developed by the surrealists, as a means of expressing the subconscious.

In automatic drawing, the hand is allowed to move 'randomly' across the paper. In applying chance and accident to mark-making, drawing is to a large extent freed of rational control. Hence the drawing produced may be attributed in part to the subconscious and may reveal something of the psyche, which would otherwise be repressed. Examples of automatic drawing were produced by mediums and practitioners of the psychic arts.

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.


The Disquieting Muses - de Chiricio

The Disquieting Muses - de Chiricio

Max Ernst - by Paul Eluard

In one corner agile incest
Turns round the virginity of a little dress

In one corner sky released
leaves balls of white on the spines of storm.

In one corner bright with all the eyes
One awaits the fish of anguish.

In one corner the car of summer’s greenery
gloriously motionless forever.

In the glow of youth
lamps lit too late.

The first one shows her breasts that kill the insects that are red

A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud

translated by Bertrand Mathieu

A while back, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing.

One night, I sat Beauty down on my lap.—And I found her galling.—And I roughed her up.

I armed myself against justice.

I ran away. O witches, O misery, O hatred, my treasure's been turned over to you!

I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish from my mind. I pounced on every joy like a ferocious animal eager to strangle it.

I called for executioners so that, while dying, I could bite the butts of their rifles. I called for plagues to choke me with sand, with blood. Bad luck was my god. I stretched out in the muck. I dried myself in the air of crime. And I played tricks on insanity.

And Spring brought me the frightening laugh of the idiot.

So, just recently, when I found myself on the brink of the final squawk! it dawned on me to look again for the key to that ancient party where I might find my appetite once more.

Charity is that key.—This inspiration proves I was dreaming!

"You'll always be a hyena etc. . . ," yells the devil, who'd crowned me with such pretty poppies. "Deserve death with all your appetites, your selfishness, and all the capital sins!"

Ah! I've been through too much:-But, sweet Satan, I beg of you, a less blazing eye! and while waiting for the new little cowardly gestures yet to come, since you like an absence of descriptive or didactic skills in a writer, let me rip out these few ghastly pages from my notebook of the damned.

Ubu Imperator - Max Ernst

Ubu Imperator - Max Ernst

Ubu Imperator

Acquired by Paul Éluard together with two other large oil paintings on canvas, Ubu Imperator instantly marked Max Ernst's entry into the sphere of Surrealism. This work brilliantly illustrates the enjoyment of heterogeneous elements inherited from collage. Its power lies in the production of a unified image which still preserves the capacity to disturb as the viewer observes its individual elements: the tip of the spinning top, the red hulk with its wire armature showing through, the human hands expressing surprise.

Thus, Père Ubu, the grotesque symbol of authority invented by Alfred Jarry, is given visual shape in playful derision. What is more, in this guise there reappears the childhood of Max Ernst, a vision of "half-slumber", as he himself described it, in which all the prestige of paternal authority and likewise of artistic creation is de-sacralised. Behind the buffoonery of power alluded to by Ubu as a spinning top, the whole traditional aesthetic of rational construction and geometric perspective is also ridiculed.

Surrealist objects

Surrealist objects


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