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A vibrantly colored, abstract landscape. A multi-colored orb seems to burst in the sky while various forms rise from the ground and split in the air.

Roberto Matta. The Earth Is a Man, 1942. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro (after her death, dedicated to the memory of Jory Shapiro by her husband). © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Also known as
Roberto Sebastian Antonio Echaurren Matta, Roberto Sebastiano Matta Echaurren, Matta, (Roberto Sebastian Antonio Echaurren Matta), Roberto Sebastian Antonio Matta Echaurren, Roberto Matta, Roberto Sebastián Matta
Date of birth
Date of death

Roberto Sebastián Antonio Matta Echaurren, better known simply as Matta, forged a unique path between visionary landscape painting and abstraction, making profound contributions to both the international Surrealist movement and Abstract Expressionism

Trained as an architect in Santiago, Chile, Matta moved to France in the mid-1930s and worked as a draftsman in Le Corbusier’s architecture studio for several years. The British-American painter Gordon Onslow Ford (for whom the artist would later name his son, Gordon Matta-Clark) first introduced Matta to Surrealism and encouraged him to pursue painting. Matta’s early works, such as Untitled (Psychological Morphology) (1939), modeled a new approach to representing psychological states through landscape-like compositions.

Fleeing Paris almost immediately after the outbreak of World War II, Matta arrived in New York in November 1939. His fluency in English allowed him to socialize with ease among contemporaries including Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, and Jackson Pollock, who began to meet regularly in Matta’s studio and were inspired by his particularly painterly approach to Surrealist ideas. Matta’s vibrant abstract paintings of the mid-1940s, such as The Earth Is a Man (1942)—arguably the artist’s best-known work—led the way to the growing monumental scale of abstraction in New York later that decade.

In the late 1940s Matta chose to leave New York, working between Italy and his native Chile for much of the rest of his life. He continued to create paintings, such as Glittering the Being (1958), and sculptures, such as Couple IV (1959–60), which brought the dense linear networks of his paintings into three dimensions. The Art Institute’s extensive holdings—40 artworks—are among the best and most complete demonstrations of the range of Matta’s long career.

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