Roberto Matta
Invasion of the Night, 1941

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Invasion of the Night
Artist name
Roberto Matta
Date created
oil on canvas
38 in. × 60 1/8 in. (96.52 cm × 152.72 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Bequest of Jacqueline Marie Onslow Ford
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

Does this painting describe a state of mind?

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Roberto Matta was twenty-nine when he painted this nightmare landscape. He had only begun painting three years before, so this is one of his earliest paintings. Matta became one of the principal Surrealist painters. Look at the very center of the painting: a patch of blue is separated from the yellow foreground by a straight line. This might be a horizon, or the blue may represent the sea, with the true skyline beyond it. In the lower left quarter of the landscape, notice that objects cast dark shadows. There is a natural logic to this part of the painting, but the objects themselves are mysterious. 

Near the top left, notice the dark form, hovering like a handful of fingers pointing upward. It is painted thickly, with many unrelated colors pouring over one another. Matta balances this form on the upper right in a dramatic splash of red, scattered with what appear to be eyes, or shells. The shapes below this red and on either side can be seen, one after another, as individual objects. Or we can take them all in at once, and notice that they resolve into an anatomical form. 

Returning to the landscape of the lower left, we see that the right-hand half of the painting is superimposed like a curtain between us and the landscape. The painting describes a state of mind, or an emotional condition. It may even depict a story. But we cant know exactly what it is. 

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Other Works by Roberto Matta

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