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Artists Roberto Matta
Roberto Matta Photo

Roberto Matta

Chilean Painter

Movement: Surrealism

Born: November 11, 1911 - Santiago, Chile

Died: November 23, 2002 - Civitavecchia, Italy

Roberto Matta Timeline


"I am interested only in the unknown and I work for my own astonishment."
Roberto Matta
"I was interested in other spaces to do with forms drawn from non-Euclidean geometry and the idea of entering these spaces. These structures do not rely on the sense of space, as we know it. It is a space without limits and which transforms itself in time - a mutant space."
Roberto Matta
"Resistance is in each of us. We resist by exercising our creativity. That is true poetry - when we seek new comparisons, other ways of looking and conceiving of things."
Roberto Matta
"I am very interested in chance. For me it is best of things .. Chance rolls on and never stops. It is like the random button on a CD player. The numbers continually roll over and do not stop, as if they are caught in a sphere. They turn and turn and then stop by chance on a track. We are like these numbers. We are rocked and bombarded from above and below, from right and left. We are a target and bombarded on all sides "
Roberto Matta

"Everything in this painting is psychological .. How to picture the battlefield, not the physical one, but the one inside of us: fear against courage, criticism, and hate, suspicion and trust? An internal bombardment."

Roberto Matta Signature


Chilean-born artist Roberto Matta was an international figure whose worldview represented a synthesis of European, American, and Latin American cultures. As a member of the Surrealist movement and an early mentor to several Abstract Expressionists, Matta broke with both groups to pursue a highly personal artistic vision. His mature work blended abstraction, figuration, and multi-dimensional spaces into complex, cosmic landscapes. Matta's long and prolific career was defined by a strong social conscience and an intense exploration of his internal and external worlds.

Key Ideas

Matta broke with the conventions of the Surrealist movement by adding a dimension of social and political awareness to his work.
Matta often supplemented an aesthetic of pure abstraction with elements of figuration and precisely rendered, though fantastically conceived, three-dimensional space.
Matta's exploration of the unconscious mind through a symbolic language of abstract forms greatly influenced the early development Abstract Expressionism.


Roberto Matta Photo


Known primarily as 'Matta,' Roberto Antonio Sebastian Matta Echaurren was born in Santiago, Chile on November 11th, 1912. The son of a Chilean father and a Spanish mother, Matta grew up in a strictly Catholic, upper middle-class home. His mother was well read and highly cultured, fostering Matta's interest in art, literature, and languages. He received a classical, Jesuit education, and enjoyed a comfortable childhood during a period of widespread economic hardship in Chile.

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Roberto Matta Biography Continues

Important Art by Roberto Matta

The below artworks are the most important by Roberto Matta - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Cruxificion (1938)
Artwork Images

Cruxificion (1938)

Artwork description & Analysis: Cruxificion marks not only Matta's first foray into oil painting, but also the start of what he called his Psychological Morphologies. While it has been suggested that the main forms in this painting represent Jesus and Mary, what is most striking about this work is its abstraction. The painting was created using the Surrealist practice of automatism. Matta utilized this technique as a means to depict a constantly transforming, multi-dimensional time and space. He believed that this allowed for a vision of reality that existed beyond the limits of normal human perception.

Oil on canvas - Private Collection

The Earth is a Man (1942)
Artwork Images

The Earth is a Man (1942)

Artwork description & Analysis: Matta produced The Earth is a Man after being greatly affected by the dramatic landscape during a trip through Mexico in 1941. The painting depicts the earth as a volatile and constantly evolving space. The composition is dominated by what appears to be either an exploding sun or erupting volcano in the left center of the piece. For Matta, this symbolized a personal outpouring of emotions and ideas. Volcanoes also appeared in several other works from this period, such as Invasion of the Night (1941) and Ecouter vivre (1941). Interestingly, The Earth is a Man shares its name with an epic poem Matta composed in 1936 to commemorate Frederico Garcia Lorca's violent death.

Oil on canvas - Private Collection, Chicago

Being With (Etre Avec) (1946)
Artwork Images

Being With (Etre Avec) (1946)

Artwork description & Analysis: As one of Matta's "Social Morphology" paintings, Being With (Etre Avec) represents a direct response to the horrors of the Second World War. Matta's deep-seated dismay finds expression in the menacing mechanical contraptions and the contorted, violently violated humanoid forms that populate the painting. The figures here are reminiscent of both totemic art and Alberto Giacometti's sculptures. Furthermore, the influence of the contemporary Mexican muralists can be seen in this work's increased scale, at 87 x 180 inches, and Matta's explicit engagement with social issues.

Oil on canvas - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Roberto Matta
Interactive chart with Roberto Matta's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Salvador DalíSalvador Dalí
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Yves TanguyYves Tanguy

Personal Contacts

André BretonAndré Breton
Frederico Garcia LorcaFrederico Garcia Lorca
Gabriela MistralGabriela Mistral
Jules Henri PoincareJules Henri Poincare
P.D. OuspenskyP.D. Ouspensky


The International StyleThe International Style
Mexican MuralismMexican Muralism

Influences on Artist
Roberto Matta
Roberto Matta
Years Worked: 1936 - 2002
Influenced by Artist


Robert MotherwellRobert Motherwell
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Adolph GottliebAdolph Gottlieb
William BaziotesWilliam Baziotes
Peter BusaPeter Busa

Personal Contacts

Arshile GorkyArshile Gorky
Gordon Onslow FordGordon Onslow Ford


Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Useful Resources on Roberto Matta






The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Transmission: The Art of Matta And Gordon Matta-Clark

By Briony Fer, Betti-Sue Hertz, Pastor Mellado, and Anthony Vidler

Matta: Surrealism and beyond Recomended resource

By Curtis L. Carter

Matta: A Centennial Celebration

By Roberto Matta and Justin Spring

More Interesting Books about Roberto Matta
Matta: Five Decades of Painting

By Valery Oisteanu
The Brooklyn Rail
March 6, 2009

Matta: The Early Years, 1937 to 1959 Recomended resource

By Martica Sawin
Latin American Masters

Matta's Genius is Revealed in 'Paintings and Drawings'

By William Wilson
The Los Angeles Times
May 9, 1997

The Otherworldly World of Roberto Matta Recomended resource

By John Russell
The New York Times
February 7, 1986

More Interesting Articles about Roberto Matta



By Hans-Ulrich Obrist
Tate Magazine
April 1, 2003

in pop culture

Matta: The Eye of the Surrealist

Film Review
Directed by Jane Crawford


Documentary on Roberto Matta

More Interesting Resources about Roberto Matta
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Content compiled and written by David Kupperberg

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by David Kupperberg
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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