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Elle garde son secret [She Keeps Her Secret] 1925

Not on display

Max Ernst claimed that he began to use the technique of frottage after noticing the wood grain of some floorboards. Taking a piece of paper, he made a rubbing of the wood to produce patterns which suggested mysterious forests. In 1926, this work was also reproduced in Ernst’s book ‘Histoire Naturelle’ in which a variety of textured materials were used to create rubbings and inspire pictures. Ernst has created a sense of space in the drawing by placing a similar shape to the central leaf-form in the background to the left, and by adding a cast shadow on the right. This drawing is from an album of fifteen drawings, assembled together by Roland Penrose in 1936, and sold to fund surrealist publications. The album also contained works by Magritte, Miró, Dalí and Tanguy.

Glossary Open


A technique in which paper or canvas is placed over a grainy surface and rubbed with a crayon or charcoal. This was often used by Surrealist artists to create chance effects. From the French word ‘frotter’, meaning ‘to rub’.


A literary and artistic movement founded by the poet André Breton in 1924. Many of the associated artists, such as Max Ernst and Jean Arp, had previously been involved with Dadaism. The movement sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. Cultural hierarchies were challenged by the combination of diverse elements in collages and sculptural assemblages. The movement is also notable for the collaborations between artists and writers evident in the Surrealists' many publications.

Frottage, Surrealism


  • Acc. No. GMA 3899
  • Medium Frottage (pencil and crayon), pencil and gouache on paper
  • Size 43.00 x 26.50 cm (framed: 47.70 x 65.50 x 2.50 cm)
  • Credit Purchased with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1995