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Herbert Matter

Engelberg 1907 - Southampton 1984


The Swiss photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter is regarded as the first to use the modern photographic poster in Switzerland. In the early 1930s, Herbert Matter convincingly integrated the medium of photography in commercial graphics for advertizing, which up to then had been drawn. Born in Engelberg, Switzerland, in 1907, Herbert Matter studied painting from 1925 until 1927 at the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva. Then Herbert Matter went to Paris to continue his education at the Académie de l'Art Moderne (ca 1928-29). His teachers included Fernand Léger and Amédé Ozenfant.
From 1929 until 1932 Herbert Matter freelanced as a graphic artist and photographer in Paris and worked for the Deberny & Peignot type foundry. From 1930-32 Herbert Matter worked for the journal "Arts et Métiers Graphiques". In Paris, Herbert Matter also met A.M. Cassandre and designed several posters with him. In 1932 Herbert Matter returned to Switzerland, where he designed a celebrated series of tourism advertizing posters for the Swiss Tourism Office.
In 1936 Herbert Matter emigrated to the US, where he worked as a photographer for "Vogue", "Harper's Baazar", and "Town and Country" magazines. During the second world war, he was commissioned by the US government to design propaganda posters. Between 1943 and 1946 Herbert Matter worked as a graphic designer in the California practice of Ray and Charles Eames. Finally, Herbert Matter began to collaborate with Knoll International, for whom he designed the logo with the big K as well as numerous catalogues and advertisements.
Herbert Matter's graphic work combines the visual stringency of the Swiss school with American Pop culture. As a photographer, Herbert Matter documented the work of numerous celebrated artists, including Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. In 1960 Matter visited Alberto Giacometti at his Paris studio. The years that followed saw Herbert Matter taking numerous photographs on Giacometti's life and work, which were later published as a book.


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