The German/French surrealist artist Max Ernst was perhaps one of the most famous artists to use rubbings in his work. He was inspired by an ancient wooden floor where the woodgrain had become exaggerated by many years of scrubbing. The shapes he saw in it suggested strange images to him. He captured these by laying sheets of paper on the floor and then rubbing over them with a soft pencil. The textures in these rubbings evoked mysterious forests and bird-like creatures. Ernst published a collection of these drawings in 1926, called “Histoire Naturelle” (“Natural History”). (In Book 7 we will find out more about the Surrealist art movement, and why chance imagery – such as this – was so important to them).
A South African artist, Thami Mnyele (1948-1985) also used frottage in his images. Mnyele was very much influenced by the Surrealist and Black Consciousness art movements of the 1970s and early 1980s (about which, again, you will read more in Book 7).
Mainly using charcoal, he made rubbings sometimes for much the same purpose as Ernst – that is, to allow for evocative landscapes and strangely-textured forms to emerge. He then “drew out” or gave shape to these suggested spaces and dreamlike objects, with precise and deliberate drawings