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  • Provenance

    Collection of Anne Alpert
    Christie's, New York, The Latin American Sale, November 22, 1999, lot 46
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    This exquisite work on paper, Untitled (a Pajarito), 1940, is emblematic of an important period and medium in Matta’s oeuvre, as it was his drawings that first created a sensation in the art world and secured his place in history as one of the most important Surrealist artists. This particular work embodies Matta’s ongoing interest in the cycle of life as portrayed by the artist’s unique biomorphic figures, which were part of his highly instinctive and personalized Surrealist iconography.

    In 1935, Roberto Matta, who had been trained as an architect, turned to a new form of artistic expression when he went to live in Paris and entered the social circle of a number of the Surrealist artists and poets. The rejection of formalism in art and the quasi-surrealist illustrations of the time had a huge impact on Matta and made him observe reality in a new manner. Once he rid himself of the constraints imposed by his architectural training, Matta started drawing full time. His early works already evinced a deep understanding of the Surrealist objective: to create a liaison between the world of dreams and the waking state. As his drawings evolved, he demonstrated a lucid understanding of landscapes derived from the geometry of forms. More importantly, the iconography he developed during this period depicted stunning introspective compositions, to which he referred to as Psychological Morphologies, that allowed viewers to discover the imagery on their own terms. It was precisely these compositions that impressed the leading Surrealists of the time, such as Gordon Onslow Ford, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp. André Breton was particularly enthusiastic about Matta’s drawings. Not only did Breton purchase two of Matta’s early works on paper, but he would later include Matta’s work in the famous 1938 Exposition Internationale du Surréalism in Paris and declare the artist to be the most significant emerging Surrealist of the time.

    Matta’s biomorphic forms became part of the Surrealists’ lexicon. These included clouds, water, rocks, plants and microscopic organisms that were in a continuous state of change. Matta believed that such forms could readily evoke a variety of associations in a viewer’s mind. In Matta’s drawings, a moment of time can be of minute duration or it can embrace a lifetime of a personage’s activities seen at once in a single form. Matta’s quest to capture metamorphosis and to depict objects in transformation remained a preoccupation throughout his prolific career. Sexuality and violence are also ever present motifs within his works, ranging from subtle to overt. Matta and fellow members of the Surrealist group believed that the act of sex was the ultimate manifestation of creation. Untitled, (a Pajarito), 1940 illustrates his interest in the life cycle, particularly the exaltation of birth. This work depicts several human figures dancing in a garden of flowers and fluttering birds. The dancers are paired and the female figures are colorfully dressed, while other figures appear to be holding musical instruments. Interestingly, and what makes this delightful drawing unique, is that it is one of the most exultant examples of Matta’s work, depicting joy and revelry as an undeniable celebration of life.

  • Artist Biography


    Chilean • 1911 - 2002

    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.

    View More Works


Untitled (a Pajarito)

colored crayon and graphite on paper
16 1/2 x 21 in. (41.9 x 53.3 cm)
Signed, dated and dedicated " a Pajarito 5 años 1940 Matta" lower left.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York Auction 18 November 2015 6pm