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ROBERTO MATTA

Roberto Matta was born in 1911 in Chile and was a surrealist painter. He studied architecture at the Catholic University of Santiago then went to Europe in 1933 and worked for architects such as Le Corbusier. During a trip to Madrid he met Salvador Dalí who told him to show his drawings to André Breton. He explored the unconscious and a fantasy world through rich colors and methods of automatism. Breton was in awe of his drawing and presented him to the surrealist group. He met Gordon Onslow Ford that same year who became one of the biggest admirers of his paintings.

In 1938 he presented four drawings at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme and participated in the group’s activities. He made his Morphologies that explore what is present beyond dreams, that which is not visible to the naked eye. Matta moved to New York and met Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and Yves Tanguy and turned to oil painting. He exhibited at the Julien Levy gallery which specialized in surrealism and gave conferences at the New School of Social Research.

In 1942 he exhibited seven drawings and 10 paintings at Pierre Matisse. He participated in the exhibit Le Surréalisme in 1947 organized by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. His first monographic exhibition took place in September 1947 and in 1948 he participated for the first time at the Venice Biennale. However, he was excluded from the surrealist group because Breton suspected him to have an affair with the wife of the painter Arshile Gorky.

Matta returned to Chili and published a text on the role of the revolutionary artist then came back to Europe and settled in Italy. His political engagement subsequently had a bigger role in his practice. Les Rosenbelles were inspired by the trial between Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, La Question, Djamila was painted after reading the Henri Alleg book La Question, and Les Puissances du désordre was painting as a tribute to the communist politician Julian Grimau. In 1950 his works were presented in Italy at the Galerie del Obelisco in Rome, and in 1954 he participated in the Salon de Mai where he exhibited regularly. In 1986 he had a retrospective at the Modern Art Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou. He died in 2002 in Italy.
Roberto Matta
Photo Credit : © Arnold Newman
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