Robert L. Peters

14 July 2009

A salute: Herbert Matter




Southampton, New York

Herbert Matter (1907–1984) was a Swiss-born American photographer and graphic designer known for his pioneering use of photomontage in commercial art. His innovative and experimental work helped shape the vocabulary of 20th-century graphic design. Read an excellent biography (written in 1976) outlining his prolific career here. In addition to the images shown above, there’s an fine sampling at the AIGA Inspiration site (along with a tribute by Steven Heller and David R. Brown) here. Paul Rand (known to many in our field as somewhat of a curmudgeon) wrote the following poem about Herbert in 1977:

Herbert Matter is a magician.

To satisfy the needs of industry, that’s what you have to be.

Industry is a tough taskmaster.

Art is tougher.

Industry plus Art, almost impossible.

Some artists have done the impossible.

Herbert Matter, for example.

His work of ’32 could have been done in ’72 or even ’82.

It has that timeless, unerring quality one recognizes instinctively.

It speaks to all tongues, with one tongue.

It is uncomplicated, to the point, familiar, and yet unexpected.

Something brought to light, an image, a surprise, an analogy.

It is believable, as it is unbelievable.

It always has an idea, the one you almost thought of.

It may be formal or anecdotal, full of sentiment, but not sentimental.

It is commercial; it is contemplative.

It enhances the quality of life.

It is Art.

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