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Printed Matter

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Considering his cache of bold-faced employers, the Swiss-born graphic designer and photographer Herbert Matter (1907–1984) should loom larger in the mid-century design canon than he does. His clients included Knoll (he was a design consultant on their ads, logos, and catalogs from 1946 to 1966) the Eames Office, Le Corbusier, and Yale University, where he taught photography and graphic design. His friends, luminaries of the art world, often became subjects of his work.  He photographed Jackson Pollock on Long Island weekends, shot a film for MoMA about Alexander Calder, and made a decades-long pictoral study of fellow Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.

In the mid-1930s Matter made a quick name for himself as a graphic designer with a set of bold, avant-garde-inspired travel posters for the Swiss National Tourist Office. His deft use of angular photography and collage presaged what would become a life-long fascination with the camera. His interdisciplinary 50-year career included magazine covers for Condé Nast, communication design for the U.S. government, and the graphic identity for the New Haven Railroad. Herbert Matter warrants a second look—here’s ours.

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  Herbert Matter’s artistic direction for Knoll’s catalogs and collateral was dominated by a grid-bound sense of scale and proportion.
    Herbert Matter’s artistic direction for Knoll’s catalogs and collateral was dominated by a grid-bound sense of scale and proportion.
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  This proposed logo for Westinghouse from 1960 shows a penchant for graphic layers.
    This proposed logo for Westinghouse from 1960 shows a penchant for graphic layers.
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  These striking holiday posters for the Swiss National Tourist Office date from 1934 to 1936.
    These striking holiday posters for the Swiss National Tourist Office date from 1934 to 1936.
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  Matter’s early ski posters for his hometown of Engelberg, Switzerland, owe a debt to punchy Russian constructivism. Layered images and shifting depths were hallmarks of his visual style.
    Matter’s early ski posters for his hometown of Engelberg, Switzerland, owe a debt to punchy Russian constructivism. Layered images and shifting depths were hallmarks of his visual style.
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  The famed chimney sweep ad for Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair for Knoll is from 1955.
    The famed chimney sweep ad for Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair for Knoll is from 1955.
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  Matter’s love of strict lines and overlapping layers is evident in this group shot of Warren Platner’s Wire Series for Knoll.
    Matter’s love of strict lines and overlapping layers is evident in this group shot of Warren Platner’s Wire Series for Knoll.
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  Though Matter’s sense of order reigned throughout much of his work, both graphic and photographic, this light drawing from 1943 shows a more ­expressionistic side.
    Though Matter’s sense of order reigned throughout much of his work, both graphic and photographic, this light drawing from 1943 shows a more ­expressionistic side.
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  His 1965 portrait of legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is a study in high contrast and sheer gravitas.
    His 1965 portrait of legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is a study in high contrast and sheer gravitas.
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  One of Matter’s longest-lasting photographic projects was a 20-year study of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. A book of these photos, Alberto Giacometti, was published posthumously in 1986.
    One of Matter’s longest-lasting photographic projects was a 20-year study of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. A book of these photos, Alberto Giacometti, was published posthumously in 1986.
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  Scores of stacked Eames Child’s chairs make abstractions out of icons.
    Scores of stacked Eames Child’s chairs make abstractions out of icons.
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  Matter designed several covers and layouts for the seminal magazine Arts & Architecture, including this issue from 1945.
    Matter designed several covers and layouts for the seminal magazine Arts & Architecture, including this issue from 1945.
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  One of Matter’s most impressive graphic design projects, and one that went through dozens of iterations, was the logo for the New Haven Railroad, a project he consulted on from 1952 to 1955.
    One of Matter’s most impressive graphic design projects, and one that went through dozens of iterations, was the logo for the New Haven Railroad, a project he consulted on from 1952 to 1955.
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  As avid a photographer of art as of artists, Matter shows Alexander Calder’s sculpture the Spider as a winsome abstraction.
    As avid a photographer of art as of artists, Matter shows Alexander Calder’s sculpture the Spider as a winsome abstraction.
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  His series of photos of his friend, the painter Jackson Pollock, exhibits the playful side of highly framed ­repetition.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!
    His series of photos of his friend, the painter Jackson Pollock, exhibits the playful side of highly framed ­repetition.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

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