Roberto Sebastian Matta Biography

Roberto Sebastian Matta




Matta (Roberto Sebastian Antonio Matta Echaurren), painter, muralist, printmaker, draughtsman and ceramist, was born in Santiago, Chile on November 11, 1911. His formal studies began in architecture, and he received his diploma in architectural studies in 1932 from La Universidad Catolica de Santiago in Chile. This coincided with his apprecticeship under visiting Swiss-French architect La Corbusier, working on his proposal for the Ville Radieuse in 1930. His interests soon veered away from architecture and he began his artistic career as a draughtsman. On the advice of friend Andre Breton, he moved to Paris in 1933 and traveled throughout Europe between 1935 and 1937, meeting Federico Garcia Lorca who introduced him to Dali.

Thanks to Dali, Matta joined the Surrealist movement in 1937 and contributed to the their publications. He began painting in 1938 and that same year he participated in the Paris Exposicion International du Surrealism. He was excluded from the Surrealist group in 1947 but was reinstated in 1959.

Exiled to the United States in 1939 with the onset of World War II, Matta settled in New York where his biomorphic, alien landscapes and figures gained popularity among artists and galleriests. His first solo exhibition in the US took place at the Julian Levy Gallery in 1940. Between 1943 and 1947 Matta worked at Atelier 17, then located in The New School, as many European and American artists did during the war. Stanley William Hayter's experimental workshop proved to be a boon for the artist whose style became more solid through his work with new printmaking tools and the atmosphere of discovery. He would return to work there from time to time in the 1950s.

After the war and his break from the Surrealist movement in 1948, Matta moved to Italy, dividing his time between Paris, London, and Roma and Tarquinia. He also maintained close ties with his Chilean home and to Latin America.

Nearly 400 exhibitions of Matta's work have been mounted internationally, beginning with a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. Following this, shows included Documenta (1959, 1977); the De Young Museum, San Francisco (1963); the Museo Civico, Bologna (traveling exhibition, 1963 - 1964); Biennale di Venezia (1964, 1968, 1974, and 1975); Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lucerne (1965); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (1966); Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara (1973); the Sala d'Exposicions: Palacio de Cristal, Madrid and the Museo de Artes, Bilbao (1983), Canary Islands (1984), Museo de Bellas Artes, Havana (1984), and Taormina, Italy (1985); Centre Georges Pompidou with the Musee National d'Art Moderne traveling exhibition (1985); among many others. 

His work is included in the permanent collection sof the Art Insitute of Chicago, the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Cleveland Art Museum; the de Young Museum, SF; the Haifa Museum of Art; Iwaki City Museum, Japan; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris; Museo de Arte Latinamericano de Buenos Aires; Museo de Artes Visuales, Santiago; Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; and many others.

Matta died in Civitavecchia, Italy on November 23, 2002.