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“Game Changer: Mercedes Matter” in Gagosian Quarterly
October 28, 2020 · History
Lauren Mahony and Michael Tcheyan pay homage to the founder of the New York Studio School in Gagosian Quarterly.
Mercedes Matter’s devotion to art and artists, manifest in her founding of the New York Studio School, was instilled in her early on. Born Jeanne Carles in Philadelphia in 1913, the future artist, writer, and educator was the daughter of Mercedes de Cordoba, a former model for Edward Steichen and other members of the Photo-Secession, and Arthur B. Carles, an American painter who studied the art of Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse in Paris in the 1910s. This early and persistent exposure to modern art led Matter herself to begin painting at the age of six. After living in Italy and France, she began to study art, first at Bennett College, to the north of New York City, and then, in the early 1930s, with the artist Hans Hofmann. This German-born painter is of course famous for teaching the concepts of abstract painting that would define the New York School: the “push-pull” approach to composition and the focus on the picture plane. He also insisted on sustained looking and time in the studio to develop ideas. Matter’s upbringing and education would define not only her own approach to art making but her career as an educator carrying these philosophies to new generations. As the art historian Ellen G. Landau has written, “The Studio School offered an atelier curriculum that perfectly reflected (perhaps even more than her own work) Mercedes Matter’s deep-seated belief in the transcendent powers of art making.” …