We are pleased to present an exciting selection of work by the renowned Chilean painter Roberto Matta. To be showcased in our Modern & Contemporary Art sale in October, the collection was created over many years by solicitor Clifford Harris - a friend of the artist who adorned his North London home with his work.
27 September 2023
Comprising nearly thirty lots - ranging from an expansive and impressive oil on canvas, to imposing bronze sculptures, prints, personalised drawings, ephemera and books - the artwork has been valued from £200 to £60,000.
Roberto Matta (Chilean-Italian, 1911-2002) 'Venus de Venus', 1966 signed l.r., inscribed with title and dated twice verso l.l. and u.r. behind stretcher bars, oil on canvas 160 x 200cm (£40,000-60,000)
Roberto Matta was born in Santiago in 1911 and became an influential figure in 20th-century surrealism and abstract expressionism. He originally studied architecture, moving to France in 1933 to work at the studio of influential architect Le Corbusier. It was in Paris that Matta met the painter Salvador Dali, and the principal theorist of surrealism, Andre Breton. At this time, he was also introduced to the work of many prominent European artists including René Magritte, Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, whose influence can be clearly seen in his early works.
Matta abandoned architecture and joined the surrealist movement in 1938, creating his first paintings which he described as ‘psychological morphologies’. Featuring bright colours and loose, dynamic brushstrokes, he painted using the surrealist technique of automatism - an attempt to depict on canvas the hidden images of the mind - creating fantastical works exploring the subconscious and irrational.
Roberto Matta (Chilean-Italian, 1911-2002) 'Absolux', 1991 bronze, signed, inscribed with title, 'Archive 91/14', 'Cera persa' (lost wax) and numbered 2/6 on base 162cm high (£7,000-10,000)
As a result of the Second World War, Matta left Europe for America in 1939, where he continued to enjoy great professional and creative success. Working alongside artists including Robert Motherwell and Arshile Gorky, Matta’s language of abstract forms greatly influenced the early development of abstract expressionism, later developed by painters including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
The standout piece in our sale is ‘Venus de Venus’, 1966. At two metres wide, it dominates the room with its dynamic composition and bold colours. Here we see the expression of the psychological processes of his mind and destruction of war. The Second World War had greatly influenced his output and many works in the following years displayed mechanical forms and distressed figures. This large-scale painting nods to the surrealist style for which he is known, but alongside his commitment to social and political conflicts.
Roberto Matta (Chilean-Italian, 1911-2002) 'Mater Nostrum' bronze, signed with artist's motif, inscribed with title and 'cera persa' (lost wax) and numbered '7/8', also with foundry stamp 'Fondera Art Fili Bonvicini Somma Campangna, Italia' 'Archivio S 93/10' on base 150cm high overall (£6,000-8,000)
The imposing bronze figures of ‘Mater Nostrum’ and ‘Absolux’ stand at 150cm and 162cm tall respectively. They convey the influence of African and Asian art with his trademark surrealist style. The body of Matta’s work has an erotic element, which is shown in a selection of the prints and drawings on offer, many of which also have a quirky and whimsical dimension.
It is a privilege for Sworders to curate this collection for exhibition and sale. There have already been more than four hundred solo exhibitions of Matta’s work throughout the world, including retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Reina Sofia, Madrid. His work is also held in permanent collections worldwide including at Tate, London, The Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis and the Peggy Guggenheim, Venice. With Roberto Matta considered a seminal figure in 20th-century art, it is unsurprising that his paintings have achieved substantial sums at auction, frequently achieving seven-figure sums.
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