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Subject: Roberto Matta, One of Last Surrealists

Dies at 91
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Date Posted: November 24, 2002 9:15:41 EDT

Roberto Echaurren Matta, a Chilean artist who was a master of surrealist painting and sculpture, has died at 91.

Matta died Saturday in a hospital in Civitavecchia, near the Tuscan town of Tarquinia where he lived in a convent.

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said Matta's death "represents the passing of one of the last major figures of painting in the 20th century."

His government declared three days of national mourning.

Born in Santiago in 1911, Matta was an architect in Paris until 1937 when he met Salvador Dali, the Spanish surrealist painter.

Surrealism, founded in 1924 by French writer Andre Breton, advocated the free expression of imagination in all arts, free of control by the conscious mind. The doctrine was influenced by Sigmund Freud's works.

Matta's images of cosmic creation were true to surrealist ideals, although his imaginative use of color and sense of humor made his work difficult to classify. He created the "accident" of spilled pigment in his canvases.

Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera paid tribute to Matta on Sunday by remembering how, in a recent interview, the artist was asked which great painter he would compare himself to.

The artist answered, "I don't know, but I think I am a Chaplin," a reference to comic Charlie Chaplin.

His funeral will be held Tuesday in Tarquinia, about 60 miles north of Rome.

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