Roberto Sebastián Matta (Santiago, Chile, 1911 - Civitavecchia, Italy, November 23, 2002) studied architecture and interior design at the city's Catholic University. In 1933, Matta went to work for Le Corbusier in Paris, where his interest turned to painting. He made a series of surreal landscape drawings of particular interest whilst traveling Peru and Panama.
After serving as a Merchant Marine, Matta traveled through Europe and the USA to meet artists such as Salvador Dalí, André Breton, and Arshile Gorky. Breton, in particular, was a significant influence on Matta and introduced Matta to the work of many of the prominent European artists of the time. Matta's "inscape" series was conceived as a visual representation of his inner psyche. His early paintings are associated with bio-morphism, using shapes and patterns reminiscent of organic form. He became strongly associated with the Surrealists, contributing to the Surrealist journal Minotaure with illustrations and essays.
In the 1940s and '50s, the political situation in Europe influenced the introduction of mechanical forms and distressed figures in Matta's paintings. Although he began gaining recognition, Matta was expelled from the Surrealist group when he was accused of indirectly causing Gorky's suicide by having an affair with the artist's wife. After this break, Matta spent time between South America and Europe, painting semi-abstract canvases in a surreal style.
During the sixties, Roberto Matta ventured into furniture design after meeting the Italian designer Dino Gavina. In 1966, Matta designed the "Malitte Lounge Furniture" seats for the firm Gavina and the "Magritte" chair, a series of bronze chairs. The Malitte seats are part of the permanent collection of the MoMA in New York.
Matta dedicated his later years to political activism. He was an active supporter of Chile's Socialist government and the president Salvador Allende. He died in Civitavecchia, Italy on November 23, 2002.
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