Roberto Matta

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Roberto Matta was a renowned and influential Chilean painter, who is best known for his fantasy-like and mystic paintings which are regarded as some of the chief examples of the Surrealist art.

Roberto Antonio Sebastian Matta Echaurren was born on November 11, 1911, in Santiago, Chile. Roberto belonged from a prosperous, middle class family, and his parents, Don Roberto Matta Echaurren, a landowner, and Mercedes Yanez were of Spanish and French heritage. Growing in the conventional and conservative community of Santiago, Roberto was raised as a devout Roman Catholic with strict rules and regulations.

His natural artistic talents and affinity for painting was discovered at a very young age, when Roberto produced his own theatre and began staging plays along with his cousins and friends. Realizing his potential and talent, Roberto’s parents influenced him to adopt architecture as a career. Roberto enrolled himself at the Sacre Coeur Jesuit College in Santiago, where he studied architecture and interior design. He then enrolled himself at the Catholic University, where he received his degree in architecture.

Soon, Roberto began to crave some excitement and a positive change, he was truly yearning to leave the confines of his small world in Chile and explore the world. He got aboard a ship and began serving as a Merchant Marine, making his way through England, Roberto made Paris his final destination. Once in Paris, he began working for the influential and renowned architect, Le Corbusier. However, he soon grew weary of architecture and realized that it was not his calling in life.

Roberto quit his job with La Corbusier, and began traveling extensively throughout Europe. He visited Spain, and there he met the famous surrealist artist, Salvador Dali, and the founder of Surrealism, André Breton, who truly influenced and touched Roberto aesthetic sense and styles with the idea of portraying the unconscious and the fantastical on to the canvas. Roberto began spending more and more time on his sketches, and began frequenting the circles of Surrealist artists including Marcel Duchamp, Walter Gropius, Salvador Dalí, Gertrude Stein, André Breton and many others, who made the rigidity and discipline demanded by architecture appear boring and unenjoyable.

In 1936, Roberto completely gave up his career as an architect, and encouraged by the influence of the Surrealists, he began experimenting with oil paints and mythical subjects. He termed his first paintings ‘Psychological morphologies’ and later, he referred to them as ‘inscapes’, by which he meant to label his work as a landscape of his subconscious, his inner mind. Roberto did not follow the rules and regulations of any particular style or art movement, his art was his own, unconventional and spontaneous, both in methods, techniques, subjects and color schemes.

With the advent of the WWII, like most Surrealist artists, Roberto Matta moved to New York City, where he influenced countless American artists in the style of ‘Automatic Painting’. During this time, Roberto developed a fondness for painting gigantic, floor to ceiling canvases. In 1940, he showcased his work at his first solo exhibition, which took place in Julien Levy Gallery, New York.

Some of his best known and most famous works include, ‘Cruxificion’, ‘The Earth is a Man’, ‘Being With’, ‘Our Earth is a Target’, ‘The First Goal of the Chilean People’ and ‘The Source of Calm’.


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