Santiago Del Chile, 1911 – Civitavecchia, 2002
Roberto Sebastián Matta , was born in Santiago de Chile on November 11, 1911. After studying architecture at the Universidad Católica in Santiago, in 1934 he moved to Paris, where he worked with the architect Le Corbusier.
Influenced by the meeting with Federico García Lorca André Breton and Salvador Dalí in 1935, in 1938 he abandoned architecture and joined the surrealist movement. In these years he devoted himself first to drawings, which were showed at the surrealist exhibition held at the Galeire Wildestein in Paris, and then, from 1938 onwards he began to approach oil painting, representing those fantastic landscapes that the artist called “inscapes” or “psychological morphologies”.
He remained active in the Parisian art scene, participating in important events such as the International Exhibition of Surrealism of Fine Arts in Paris, and in general in the European art context until the outbreak of World War II, which forced him to take refuge in New York in 1939, where, however, attended surrealist circles with Ernst, Masson and Breton.
In the 1940s he was by and in turn he influenced Abstract Expressionism, having a great impact on many artists including Gorky and Motherwel. In these years the artist presented his first solo exhibition, in 1940 at the Julien Gallery in New York and, in 1942 he participated in the exhibition “Artists in Exile” at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. Two years later, his encounter with Duchamp led him to develop increasingly monstrous forms in which clearly emerges the presence of mechanical forms and cinematographic effects.
Matta broke with the Surrealists in 1948 and became a point of reference for the nascent Italian abstractionism, once he came back to Rome during the same year.
His most important exhibitions include retrospectives held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1957) and at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris (1985). He exhibited at Biennials of Sao Paulo (1962), Berlin (1970) and Hanover (1974). In 1990 he was awarded the Chilean National Art Award and as tribute he received a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago.
The artist died on 23 November 2002 and on the occasion of his death the President of Chile Ricardo Lagos proclaimed three days of national mourning.