Saturday, December 1, 2012

Film Review | Herbert Matter

The Visual Language of Herbert Matter
by Reto Caduff, Director and Writer
PiXiu Films, Zurich, Switzerland, 2011
DVD. 79 mins. Sales, $29.95
Distributor’s website:


In 1927, a twenty-five-year-old American aviator named Charles Lindbergh successfully crossed the Atlantic in a single-engine monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. Flying non-stop from New York to Paris, Lindbergh was met on his arrival by 150,000 spectators. As revealed in this film biography, in the enormous, frenzied crowd that day was a young Swiss graphic designer (five years younger than Lindbergh) named Herbert Matter.

Matter (1907-1984) was born and raised in Engelberg, Switzerland, an Alpine village and mountain resort where his family owned a bakery and tearoom. Initially, he studied art in Geneva, but in 1927 (the year of Lindbergh’s famous flight) he moved to Paris, where he studied with French artists Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant, and worked with architect Le Corbusier (who was Ozenfant’s associate in their quasi-cubist movement called Purism).

Of greater consequence, Matter also worked with graphic designer A.M. Cassandre. It was during those same years in Paris that he was lastingly influenced by Russian Constructivism, DeStijl, the Bauhaus, and Surrealism. To some extent, his later achievements as a designer, illustrator, photographer and filmmaker can be seen as an individualized blend of selected aspects and attitudes from these earlier, once precarious styles. more>>>