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Techniques: photogram, collage, assemblage, cadavre exquis, decalcomania, frottage

Fotogram (4), 1928.
fotogram, 180х240 mm


The photogram is a kind of photography shot without the use of camera. The photogram is obtained by placing an object directly onto a surface of a light-sensitive material, such as photographic paper, after which it is exposed to light. As a result of this procedure an image of the object appears in the negative, with a multitude of shades depending on the level of transparency of the object used.     

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Rekom kućujem zid..., 1930.
kolaž / karton, 250x318 mm


One of the first authors to put the procedure of collage to practice in the framework of Surrealism was Max Ernst. As of 1919 Ernst’s works were assembled from materials taken out of diverse sources in order to achieve unexpected juxtapositions. From 1929 onward, he creates the so-called collage-novels, a series of works realised through the use of the late 19th c. prints and the cuttings from illustrated catalogues, pasting them together, in a simple repetition of visual motifs.    

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Une atmosphère du printemps et de jeunesse, 1930.
kоlаž-аsаmblаž/ pаpir, 302x235 mm

The assamblage (assemblage (fr.), assembling, joining, bringing together, fitting together) is an artistic form in which diverse materials, traditionally deemed as alien to art, are put together in 3D structures. The assemblage is made through the process of arranging just like in collage, however it includes 3D objects, parts of objects and 2D fragments of images and texts. As a form of artistic production, the assemblage was widely used in Cubism, Futurism, and Dada, while its application was central to Surrealism.

The assemblage becomes an important part of the Surrealist creativity, since it enables the materialisation of the Surrealist penchant for the unexpected encounters of heterogeneous elements. The facility with which objects can be juxtaposed within an assemblage made this medium most welcomed vehicle for the Surrealists in their search for the marvellous.         




„LE CADAVRE EXQUIS“ br. 13, 1930.
оlоvkа i оlоvkе u bојi / pаpir, 225x145 mm


Among the techniques that served as a tool in the examination of the principle of chance stands out the so-called [le] Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse), a game which Surrealists introduced somewhere at about 1925. As remembered by André Breton, the game was devised in an old house, that was some time later demolished, at 53 Rue du Château, during a regular everyday meeting of a group of friends, poets and painters. After the conversation dried up, the company would engage in playing “games”, which at first were literary, and afterwards became visual, out of a desire to produce some startling verse or drawing. The origins of the Exquisite Corpse were explained by André Breton in his book Le Surréalisme et la Peinture (Surrealism and Painting) (1926).                 

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Iz ciklusa "Dekalkomanije"
mastilo / papir, 58x27 mm


In an artistic context, the technique of decalcomania was put to use for the first time in 1936 by Oscar Dominguez to create shapes which were unpremeditated. The decalcomania (fr. la decalcomanie, transferring) is the process in which a paint is brushed onto a paper, and while the colour is still fresh another paper is placed over it, thereby transferring the colour from one to another. In that way an unexpected shape emerges, allowing the artist to unleash his/hers imagination, elaborating a free interpretation of the form which has thus appeared. In these shapes each spectator can make out a different figure. After Oscar Dominguez, the principle of decalcomania was extensively applied in painting by Max Ernst.

In the Serbian Surrealism decalcomania was used by Marko Ristić, in such a way that he would fold over in half the paper with the ink-drawing, thus acquiring a spontaneously generated image, which offers incentive for a strain of free associations.




Through the technique of frottage a texture of a surface, for instance a piece of wood or a stone, is copied in such a way that one places a paper onto this surface and then rubs it with a soft graphite pencil or a crayon. By doing so the texture of the material emerges on the paper.    

The procedure of frottage was developed by Max Ernst, after having discovered it due to accidental circumstances in 1925. Ernst was inspired by an old wooden floor and its texture which became striking after years of cleaning and scrubbing, and drew from it a host of various associations. Ernst decided to somehow take the imprint of the wooden planks, which he did by rubbing the black coloured pencil over a sheet of paper he previously spread across the floor. He then went on and expanded the same procedure with other textures, and afterwards published his first collection of frottages, entitled Histoire naturelle (Natural History), in 1926. He carried on with similar experiments in the medium of oil painting.            

Frottage is a form of automatic creativity, and the Surrealists incorporated the products of this technique into their works, most often arranging them as a collage.