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Roberto Matta (Chile 1911‑2002)

”Être cible pour se connaître”

Hammered at SEK 260.000 at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 16-18 June 2020

Lot 826. Roberto Matta (Chile 1911‑2002) ”Être cible pour se connaître”. Signed lower right. Oil on canvas, 81 x 100 cm.


300.000 – 400.000 SEK
€ 28.000 – 38.000


Galerie Ariel, Paris.
The collection of Arne Sörgård (1927‑2018), Halmstad.

In context

Roberto Matta’s “Être cible pour se connaitre” – combining mechanical elements with surrealism

”Être cible pour se connaître” included in this auction was acquired from Galerie Ariel in Paris and has remained within the same private collection ever since. This vivid composition proves an excellent combination of technological features and abstract forms, blending together through the use of blurred out colours. The neon like tones of yellow and green are often seen in Matta’s works, sometimes heightened with white and contrasting blue or pink. The strong black lines form the composition, although not convincingly figurative but closer to surrealism in its expression. An airplane seem to be flying into the unknown, perhaps the yellow symbolizes the sun and the green land. The figurative elements in the background of the picture convey the thoughts of a large audience who eagerly cheer on the aircraft’s journey towards the infinite. Where is it going? Maybe the title of the painting leads us to the answer: ”Être cible pour se connaître”. Only imagination sets the limits. 

In the early 1930’s, Roberto Matta had left his home in Chile to work as a draughtsman in the architectural office of Le Corbusier in Paris. Shortly after, in the mid 1930’s he went to see his aunt in Spain. This came to be the most important journey of his life. At his aunt’s house he met the famous poet Federico García Lorca, by whom he was greatly impressed. Lorca gave him a book, and most importantly, a note to deliver to the artist Salvador Dalí when he was back in Paris. However, It was not until the following year when Matta learned that the Falangists had murdered Lorca that he went to see the surrealist master Salvador Dalí. Dalí was impressed by the young Chilean artist and introduced him to some of the most prominent artists in Paris at the time, such as René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. Through the founder of surrealism André Breton, Matta was also introduced to this radical movement, which he joined in 1937.

Like many members of the surrealist group in Europe, Roberto Matta moved to the United States in the late 1930’s. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the artist arrived in New York together with his American wife. Young, charismatic, fluent in English, French and Spanish as well as a skillful artist he had no trouble settling in. In New York, Matta became the link between the European Surrealists and the New York School’s artists, and he came to be of great importance for the art of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko among others. Until then, Matta had focused on drawing but in connection with the move to the United States he created his first paintings. In 1940 he held his first separate exhibition at Julian Levy Gallery in New York. Soon he was showing his paintings at important galleries and influenced a younger generation of American artists, introducing the American art scene to new forms of abstract expressionism and surrealism. However, Matta eventually broke with the conventions of both movements to pursue a personal artistic vision. By adding a dimension of social and political awareness and combining figural elements with pure abstraction, he formed a unique unexplored style.

In his highly suggestive paintings Matta portrayed the technological era, with mechanical elements and peculiar mixes, hybrids of biological and technical forms suspended in an infinite space. Through his paintings, Matta explored the subconscious world and developed a strong sense of colour and rhythm. In addition to his painting, Matta has also explored other techniques, including sculpture, ceramics, photography and video installations. Roberto Matta combined art from three continents and merged them into one unique style. Synthesis of European, American, and Latin American culture represented Roberto Matta’s worldview. Marcel Duchamp meant that Roberto Matta created an own definition of space and therein laid his strengths as an artist.

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