Lot 42
  • 42

MATTA | Les nerfs-volant

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Matta
  • Les nerfs-volant
  • titled and dated Paris 38. (lower right)
  • colour crayons and pencil on paper
  • 49.2 by 63.7cm.
  • 19 3/8 by 25in.
  • Executed in Paris in 1938.


Ruth Moskin, New York Richard Castellane Gallery, New York

Dr & Mrs Richard Levy, New Orleans (acquired by 1971)

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

Danese, New York

Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris

Private Collection, USA

Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, Paris, 5th December 2012, lot 11)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


New York, Ruth Moskin Gallery, Matta. Colored Drawings (1937-1955), 1957, no. 8 New Orleans, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans Collects, 1971-72, no. 110, illustrated in the catalogue

Catalogue Note

In his early twenties, Roberto Matta travelled from his native Chile to Paris to work in Le Corbusier’s studio. Trained as an architect, Matta soon found himself immersed in the maelstrom of artistic creativity of 1930s Europe. Within a few years he met Federico García Lorca, Salvador Dalí, Walter Gropius, Lázló Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Duchamp. In 1937 he was employed by the architects of the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition, where Picasso’s Guernica, Miró’s El campesino catalán en rebeldía and Calder’s sculpture Mercury Fountain were displayed. It was Dalí who arranged for Matta, with a letter of introduction written by García Lorca, to meet André Breton. Breton, who had opened a shop specialising in Surrealist and primitive art, purchased two of Matta's drawings and enthusiastically encouraged him to continue developing his technique. In a 1939 revue of Minotaure Matta was heralded by Breton as the auspicious new talent in the Surrealist movement.  

In his own work Matta examined the liaison between the waking state and the world of dreams, developing a world he termed Psychological Morphology or Inscape, describing an adventure into an alternative reality with its own space-time. Composed of biomorphic elements, Les nerfs-volant presents the viewer with a dream-like world populated by strange, fantastic forms executed in vibrant pink, orange, yellow, green and blue tones. Alluding to the French term ‘cerf-volant’ (‘a kite’), Matta’s enigmatic flying creatures occupy a world of fantasy, whilst at the same time conveying a strong sense of energy and movement.