Roberto Sebastian Echaurren Matta
* 1911 Santiago de Chile
† 2002 Rom
After his degree in architecture in 1933 the artist of Chilean descent emigrated to France, where he started to work with Le Corbusier in 1934. Inspired by Dalì and Breton, whom he met in 1936, Matta concerned himself with Surrealism and painted his first pictures in this style. He moved to New York in 1939, where he joined the group of Surrealist artists. When Matta traveled to Mexico with Robert Motherwell he witnessed the eruption of a volcano and this natural phenomenon became the initial idea for his picture series 'The Earth is a Man', which was painted in 1941. Because of 'intellectual disqualification', the artist was expelled from the group of surrealists in 1948. He returned to Europe and spent some time in Rome before he settled in Paris in 1954. Typical for his time in Rome in the early 1950s were figures shaped like totems that fill his complex canvas areas and influenced his further creative work, which also includes sculpture since 1960. In 1956 he obtained an order for a commissioned work for the UNESCO in Paris. Matta reacted with political commitment in his pieces of work to events like the wars in Algeria and Vietnam and the conditions in Cuba and Chile. Connected to the peace movement the artist traveled several times to Cuba since 1960. To support his political activities he visited the USA and different South American countries, where he made a mural painting for the university in Santiago de Chile in 1961. With his extremely abstract painting style rooted in the surrealistic method of psychic automatism, in which Matta creates weird and unreal areas filled with fantastic insect and machine hybrids, Matta had a strong influence on the artists of the Abstract Expressionism like Gorky and Motherwell. Besides the documenta II, III, IV, Matta was represented in numerous international exhibitions, e.g. the 1957 retrospective in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the1959 retrospective in the Moderna Museet in Stockholm as well as further retrospectives in Bologna, Vienna, Düsseldorf, Brussels, Amsterdam and Mannheim between 1963 and 1964. The Kestner-Gesellschaft organized an extensive exhibition of his works in Hanover in 1974. In the 1980s Matta is shown in large retrospectives in Valencia and Barcelona (1983) and in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1985). The exhibition 'Nouvelle peinture en France, les années 80' shown in Hongkong, Singapore and Bangkok pays tribute to Matta's oeuvre in 1987.