*1911 in Santiago, Chile
†2002 in Civitavecchia, Italy
Roberto Matta Echaurren, a seminal figure in Parisian surrealism and New York abstract expressionism, is widely considered to be Chile’s finest painter. Matta graduated from his studies in architecture at the Catholic University of Santiago in 1932 and moved to Paris to work for Le Corbusier’s studio. During his travels around Europe, he was introduced to the Surrealist Salvador Dalí, who encouraged Matta to show his architectural compositions to André Breton and pursue a career in art. He also worked on the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition, where he was struck by Picasso’s ‘Guernica.’ In 1938, he exhibited in the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, before moving to New York. In New York, Matta began oil painting and was a crucial intermediary for artists such as Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Mark Rothko. After his initial success in New York, Matta began to attract the disapproval of powerful American critics such as Clement Greenberg, who objected to the figurative elements in Matta’s painting, and of the Surrealists, who considered that his work no longer adhered to their tenets. Despite this Matta continued working tirelessly. He lived in Rome, London and Paris but traveled widely outside Europe. In 1958, he was commissioned to create a large mural in the UNESCO building in Paris. This was one year after the MoMa in New York opened a retrospective of Roberto Matta’s work, which was the first major solo project at the institution after its reconstruction. Matta’s first retrospective in Europe was held at the city museum of Amsterdam in 1964, followed by retrospectives at the National Gallery in Berlin in 1970, and the Centre Pompidou in 1985. Today, Matta’s works can be found in internationally leading museums, such as, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and Tate Britain, London.