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Lot 84: MATTA

Est: £100,000 GBP - £150,000 GBP
Sotheby'sFebruary 08, 2005London, United Kingdom

Item Overview


Executed in 1943-44.

charcoal and white chalk on board

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Matta Foundation, Paris.


74 by 90.2cm.<br><br>29 1/8 by 35 1/2 in.

Artist or Maker




Nîmes, Carré d'Art, Musée d'Art Contemporain, 1990


L'Amérique Latine et le Surréalisme (exhibition catalogue), no. 40, illustrated


Galerie du Dragon (Max Clarac-Sérou), Paris
Cecilia Ayala, Paris
The Mayor Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner


The Adventures of a Biomorphic Couple
belongs to a series of works Matta executed in New York during the winter of 1943-44 (fig. 1). Having left Europe after the outbreak of World War II, the artist spent the war years in the United States. His first solo exhibition opened in New York in 1940 to great acclaim, and he was soon recognised as a major influence both in the Surrealist circle and on the younger Abstract Expressionist artists. Matta experienced deep anxiety during the war years, and the horror of the holocaust and the prospect of atomic war were manifested in the drawings he produced during that time, including The Adventures of a Biomorphic Couple. As Peter Selz has explained: 'The spaces in Matta's pictures in the mid-forties seem more definite, but are filled with pitfalls and ambiguities... His spaces now are populated by strange anthropomorphic beings, animistic machines, Duchampian mechanical monsters. His pictures had to become larger, because these terrifying beings need space to carry out their hallucinatory actions and horrifying demonology' (P. Selz, 'Matta', in Roberto Matta (exhibition catalogue), Tasende Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1980, p. 8).

Like his contemporary Francis Bacon, Matta possessed a remarkable ability to convey his apocalyptic visions through the manipulation of familiar forms and strong contours. The scarcely recognisable, yet horrifyingly evocative anthropomorphic shapes in the present work suggest the feeling of desperation many people experienced during the war years. The strong lines and sharp angles, culminating in the violent force of the open mouth, have a dramatic impact, as well as a strong sense of movement that seems to resonate beyond the boundaries of the work. The emotional content of The Adventures of a Biomorphic Couple, combined with Matta's ability to transcend the limits of his planar surface, conveys his expert draughtsmanship and his importance as a historical commentator.

Auction Details

German and Austrian Art, Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale and Surrealist Art.

February 08, 2005, 12:00 AM EST

34-35 New Bond Street, London, LDN, W1A 2AA, UK