Chilean artist Roberto Sebastian Antonio Matta Echaurren (1911 - 2002) received no formal instruction in the visual arts, yet evolved into one of the most renowned Surrealist painters of all time. Like most Surrealists, the artist, known simply as Matta, dedicated himself to exploring the powerful inner world of the subconscious on canvas. But Matta took the movement one step further, promoting a technique called "automatic painting," in which he attempted to work without thinking. Matta believed that by painting on sheer impulse - with no fore-thought - he could capture the unconscious mind at work. For Matta, this technique yielded a lifetime of peculiar, often hallucinatory images, whose originality greatly influenced the 20th-century art world.
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Roberto Antonio Sebastián Matta Echaurren (November 11, 1911 – November 23, 2002), better known as Roberto Matta, was one of Chile's best-known painters and a seminal figure in 20th century abstract expressionist and surrealist art. Born in Santiago, he initially studied architecture at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, but became disillusioned with this occupation and left for Paris in 1933. His travels in Europe and the USA led him to meet artists such as Arshile Gorky, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, André Breton, and Le Corbusier. Matta was of Spanish, Basque and French descent. It was Breton who provided the major spur to the Chilean's direction in art, encouraging his work and introducing him to the leading members of the Paris Surrealist movement. Matta produced illustrations and articles for Surrealist journals such as Minotaure. During this period he was introduced to the work of many prominent contemporary European artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp.
In his art Matta creates new dimensions in a blend of organic and cosmic life forms. He was one of the first artists to take this abstract leap. Matta's connections with Breton's surrealist movement were severed when a private disagreement concerning Arshile Gorky and his family; (when Matta was accused of indirectly causing the suicide of Gorky because of Matta's relationship with the wife of the Armenian-American painter), and led to his expulsion from the group, but by this time his own name was becoming widely known. He divided his life between Europe and South America during the 1950s and 1960s, successfully combining the political and the semi-abstract in epic surreal canvases. Matta believed that art and poetry can change the lives of people, and was very involved in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. He was a strong supporter of the socialist government of president Salvador Allende in Chile. A 4x24 meter mural of his entitled The First Goal of the Chilean People, was painted over with 16 coats of paint by the military regime of Augusto Pinochet following their violent overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973. In 2005 the mural was discovered by local officials. In 2008 the mural was completely restored at a cost of $43,000, and is displayed today in Santiago at the La Granja city hall.