This technique was invented by surrealists and is similar to an old parlour game called Consequences in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution. Surrealism principal founder André Breton reported that it started in fun, but became playful and eventually enriching. Breton said the diversion started about 1925, but Pierre Reverdy wrote that it started much earlier, at least before 1918.
In a variant now known as picture consequences, instead of sentences, portions of a person were drawn.
An exquisite corpse drawing produced in four sections
Later the game was adapted to drawing and collage, producing a result similar to children’s books in which the pages were cut into thirds, the top third pages showing the head of a person or animal, the middle third the torso, and the bottom third the legs, with children having the ability to “mix and match” by turning pages. The game has also been played with the usual orientation of foldings and four or fewer people, and there have been examples with the game played with only two people and the paper being folded width wise and breadthwise, resulting in quarters. It has been played by mailing a drawing or collage—in progressive stages of completion—to the players, and this variation is known as “Exquisite Corpse by airmail”
You can see a full page ongoing living gallery of our exquisite corpse artworks. It currently has some old works from Mad Jacks collection over the years, but we are busy making new ones, sending them to each other by post. For some of the forthcoming works we will have a set of rules to play the game. As each new artwork is completed it will be published here.