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Home » Glossary » Grattage

Grattage is an art technique that involves scraping or scratching the surface of a painting to reveal underlying layers of color and texture. The method was developed by the surrealist artist Max Ernst in the 1920s, and was used to create abstract and dreamlike images.

To create a grattage painting, the artist would apply layers of paint to the canvas, often using a variety of tools and techniques to create different textures and patterns. Once the paint had dried, the artist would then use a scraping or scratching tool, such as a razor blade or a comb, to remove or “grate” the top layer of paint, revealing the layers beneath.

Ernst used grattage in conjunction with other techniques, such as frottage (rubbing a pencil or other drawing tool over a textured surface to create a pattern) and decalcomania (transferring patterns from one surface to another), to create his surrealist works.

Grattage continues to be used by artists today as a way to create unique and unpredictable textures and patterns in their work. The technique is often used in conjunction with other painting techniques, such as impasto (thickly applying paint to the canvas) and glazing (applying thin layers of paint over one another), to create a rich and complex surface.