1938 - 1945
Among Hedda Sterne’s earliest exhibited work are her Papiers arrachés et interprétés. A unique adaptation of a Surrealist automatist technique, she would tear paper, let it fall, then interpret and develop the abstract forms using graphite.
Sterne called Surrealism "the greatest influence in my life when I was young." Growing up in Bucharest, Vienna, and Paris in the 1920s, Sterne closely followed the post-Dada movements of Constructivism and the developing Surrealist movement. By the late 1930s and into the early 1940s, she was regularly exhibited within the Surrealist context, including the influential First Papers of Surrealism, organized by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. The language of Surrealism was, for Sterne, often a tool to explore the anxieties of WWII. Later collages made around the time of her escape from Europe to the U.S. reflect upheaval and destruction, using clippings from magazines.
Hedda Sterne's first widely exhibited group of paintings are her Memories of Romania series, which she began about a year after her escape from war-torn Europe to New York. By 1943, she had adopted a style inspired by children's drawing to depict places and events from her own childhood in Bucharest.