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Matta

Chilean   •  1911 -2002

Biography

After graduating from university in Santiago in 1935 with a degree in architecture, Roberto Matta traveled to Europe where he met André Breton, the founder of the Surrealist movement in Europe. In 1938, he began painting and moved to the United States for ten years. During this period he sought to evoke the human psyche in his work, inspired by Freudian psychoanalysis. Matta's works became increasingly dominated by a socio-political element, which broke from the conventions of Surrealism.

Matta was also a seminal figure in Abstract Expressionism but broke away from this too to develop a highly personal artistic vision. His mature works blend abstraction with elements of figuration and fantastically-conceived, multi-dimensional space. He was heavily involved in the social movements of the 1960s and '70s and a strong supporter of Salvador Allende's socialist government.

Insights

  • Following Pinochet's coup in 1973, his military regime painted over Matta's mural The First Goal of the Chilean People with 16 coats of paint. The mural was rediscovered in 2005 and restored in 2008 at a cost of $43,000.

  • French artist Marcel Duchamp referred to Matta as "the profoundest painter of his generation."

  • Matta profoundly influenced Arshile Gorky, advising him in 1942 to use more turpentine to help loosen up his paintings.

"I'm not really a painter. I'm only interested in learning the technique of painting to demonstrate my ideas."

Past Lots

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