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Tapping the Subconscious: Automatism and Dreams

Discover how Surrealist artists tapped the creative potential of the subconscious mind.


Automatic Drawing

André Masson
(French, 1896–1987)

1924. Ink on paper, 9 1/4 x 8 1/8" (23.5 x 20.6 cm)

André Masson began automatic drawings with no preconceived subject or composition in mind. Like a medium channeling a spirit, he let his pen travel rapidly across the paper without conscious control. He soon found hints of images—fragmented bodies and objects—emerging from the abstract, lacelike web of pen marks. At times Masson elaborated on these with conscious changes or additions, but he left the traces of the rapidly drawn ink mostly intact.

A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).

In psychoanalysis, waking awareness; the activity of the mind directly perceptible to and under the control of a person.

The visual or narrative focus of a work of art.

The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art so as to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music, or literature, or its structure or organization.

A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.