b. Santiago, Chile 1911 - 2002
Roberto Matta was one of Chile's best-known painters and a seminal figure in 20th century abstract expressionist and surrealist art. Like his friend Arshile Gorky, Matta's otherworldly paintings and prints explored the unconscious through methods of Surrealist automatism. With fluid brushstrokes of rich color, the artis described nebulous spaces inhabited by floating organic and architectonic forms, as seen in the hallmark work Les Roses sont belles (1951). "I'm interesed only in the unknown and I work for my own astonishment" he declared.
Matta graduated with a degree in architecture from the Catholic University of Santiago in 1932 before moving to Paris to work in the studio of Le Corbusier. While in Europe, he travelled to Madrid where he was introduced to the famed Surrealist Salvador Dali. It was Dali who encouraged Matta to show his architectural drawings to André Breton and pursue a career in art. Now an accepted member of the Surrealist group, Matta settled in New York in 1938, began oil painting and befriended American artists while maintaining ties with European freiends like Yves Tanguy. He spent much of the rest of his life between Paris and Rome. He died on November 23, 2002 in Civitavecchia, Italy at the age of 91.
Matta's works are presently held in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.