The Bachelors Twenty Years Later

Roberto Matta, Chilean, 1911 - 2002

Date:
1943

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
38 x 50 inches (96.5 x 127 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
Modern and Contemporary Art

Object Location:

* Gallery 169, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor

Accession Number:
1989-51-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Edith H. Bell Fund, the Edward and Althea Budd Fund, gifts (by exchange) of Mr. and Mrs. William P. Wood and Bernard Davis, and bequest (by exchange) of Miss Anna Warren Ingersoll, 1989

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Label:
This painting belongs to the “Psychological Morphologies” series, in which Matta sought to discover regions of space hitherto unexplored in the realm of art. It specifically pays homage to Marcel Duchamp’s (American (born France), 1887 - 1968) great allegory of frustrated desire, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) of 1915–23 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1952-98-1). Matta admired Duchamp’s explorations of science and eroticism and he gave these themes new energy in an explosion of nebulous vapors that swirl in a vision of primal chaos. In the context of Surrealism, Matta’s lamplike bachelors conjure up the unseen, supernatural entities called “Great Transparents,” conceived by André Breton (French, 1896 - 1966), who was also a Surrealist, as modern mythological beings.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    This painting pays homage to Marcel Duchamp's great allegory of frustrated desire, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass). Matta admired the French artist's explorations of science and eroticism, and his painting continues the themes that Duchamp had abandoned in 1923, when he declared his Large Glass to be "definitively unfinished." Twenty years later, the bachelors are energized by the Chilean artist's infinite space and incisive linear markings, recalling the symmetrical cracks in the original work, which occurred when the two sheets of glass were accidentally smashed. The sexual tension that permeates the Large Glass is translated into an explosive electromagnetic force field, as the excitement of the transparent, lamplike bachelors generates an illuminating gas that mixes with other nebulous vapors to produce a vision of primary chaos, with slivers of stormy crystalline light. Matta created this evocative imagery by spilling thin washes of lemon yellow and green paint on the canvas, wiping the surface with a rag, and then drawing with a paintbrush to define the mechanical-organic elements.

    This painting is one of a series that Matta called "Psychological Morphologies," in which the artist sought to discover regions of space hitherto unexplored in the realm of art. Morphology, a science dealing with the metamorphoses of forms, established the atmosphere of continuous transformation that characterized Matta's early work in Paris, where he was a prominent figure in the Surrealist movement. The Bachelors Twenty Years After was painted in the United States, where Matta had moved in 1939 following the outbreak of World War II in Europe. The presence in New York of this enfant terrible of Surrealism had a catalytic effect on the younger generation of American avant-garde artists, in particular the future Abstract Expressionist painters Robert Motherwell and Arshile Gorky. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 94.


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