Roberto Matta

Birth placeSantiago de Chile, Chile Birth date1911

Roberto Sebastián Antonio Matta Echaurren (born in 1911, Santiago, Chile - 2002, Civitavecchia, Italy) is considered one of the great Surrealists and is widely acclaimed for his critical—and catalytic—influence on the development of Abstract Expressionism and on his contemporaries, including Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell. Fascinated by the fluctuating energy of the universe and rejecting the notion of a single vantage point, he created paintings and drawings with complex, dynamic space eventually incorporating social commentary into his work through figurative imagery.

Matta’s first one-artist exhibition was held at the Julian Levy Gallery, New York in 1940, and since that time, nearly 400 solo exhibitions of his work have been mounted, including a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1957), which traveled to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1957) and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (1958).

In 1931 Matta traveled from his native Santiago de Chile to Paris to work in Le Corbusier's workshop. In 1934 he visited Spain and met Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí. During these years he also traveled to the Scandinavian countries, where he established contact with Alvar Aalto, Russia and London, where he worked briefly with Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy. In 1937 he collaborated with Josep Lluís Sert and Luis Lacasa in the design of the Pavilion of the Spanish Republic at the Exposition Internationale in Paris, where Picasso's Guernica had a great impact on him. That same year he met André Breton, who had shown interest in his drawings, which evoked landscapes of subjective and fantastic qualities. In 1938 he was invited to participate in the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme and remained linked to the Surrealist group until he was expelled from it ten years later.

With the beginning of World War II in 1939, Matta moved to New York and soon began to interact with Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Mark Rothko. His works were exhibited in 1942 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, where they were admired by young American artists. During 1941 he traveled to Mexico and learned about the work of Mexican muralists. As a consequence, his works increased in format, influencing his American friends as well. Finally, with the beginning of the Cold War, he returned to Europe in 1948 and lived between Paris and Rome. In 1969 he acquired French nationality, and after residing in Chile during the Government of Salvador Allende, spent his last years between Paris and Tarquinia.

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