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The Art Story Homepage Artists Roberto Matta
Roberto Matta Photo

Roberto Matta

Chilean Painter

Movements and Styles: Surrealism, Biomorphism

Born: November 11, 1911 - Santiago, Chile

Died: November 23, 2002 - Civitavecchia, Italy

Roberto Matta Timeline

"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

Summary of Roberto Matta

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.

Important Art by Roberto Matta Important Art and Analysis

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 Google 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)
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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 Google 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

More Roberto Matta Artwork and Analysis:

Etre Cible Nous Monde (1958) The First Goal of the Chilean People (1971) La Source du Calme (The Source of Calm) (2002)

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.
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Show influences

Artists

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

Movements

The International StyleThe International Style
Mexican MuralismMexican Muralism
SurrealismSurrealism
Influences on Artist
Influences on Artist
Roberto Matta
Roberto Matta
Years Worked: 1936 - 2002
Influenced by Artist
Influenced by Artist

Artists

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

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
SurrealismSurrealism

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Cite this page

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
Available from:
First published on 05 Dec 2013. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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