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The Syllabus: Herbert Matter

Herbert Matter (b. 1907 Engelberg, Switzerland; d. 1984 Southampton, New York) was one of the mid-20th century's iconic designers.  Remembered for travel posters for his native Switzerland and designs for the furniture maker Knoll, among many other things, Matter was considered an innovator in typography and photomontage. His work applied the principles of modernism to commercial design and helped define the postwar aesthetic in the United States, and he counted as friends or collaborators such artists as Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. Not content to stick with design, Matter was also a known photographer, who shot covers for Vogue and fashion for Harper's Bazaar; an artist; and a teacher at Yale.

Somehow, this busy man also found the time for the Guggenheim. From 1958 to 1968, Matter worked closely with the museum on designs for just about anything it produced: invitations, posters, and especially catalogues. In over a dozen publications, Matter's elegant graphic touch shaped the Guggenheim's visual identity, taking the exhibition catalogue — which was then often still considered a documentary afterthought — and turning it into a statement.

Photo: ©

Required Reading

Abstract Expressionists Imagists

H. H. Arnason
Published in 1961
136 pages , fully illustrated

Guggenheim International Exhibition 1967

Contributions by Edward J. Fry and Thomas M. Messer
Published in 1967
154 pages

Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition

Thomas M. Messer
Published in 1964
92 pages , fully illustrated

Joseph Cornell

Diane Waldman
Published in 1967
60 pages , fully illustrated

Francis Bacon

Contributions by Lawrence Alloway and Thomas M. Messer
Published in 1963
80 pages , fully illustrated

Additional Resources

The Visual Language of Herbert Matter (a documentary film by Reto Caduff)

AIGA website


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