Charles Matton

France 1931 - 2008

Sculpture, Photography, Illustration, Painting

Charles Matton
Charles Matton
March 3, 2016
Art somehow explains a lot that's happening in the world right now. Feel free to contact me at

The secret of happiness is that it comes from small things. Sometimes they are literary small, like in the case of the Charles Matton’s most famous work – the Boxes. Even though he was quite versatile, and worked in painting, illustration and photography, but also as a screenwriter, writer, and a movie director, what marked his career were the miniature worlds. His memories of the places where he lived were poured into the creation of the pieces, but his imagination as well. In the last decade of his life, Matton became worldwide recognizable, exhibiting his work throughout the globe.

His most famous works were the Boxes, a miniature worlds

Charles Matton - A Newborn Sculptor's Studio I (fully emerged head), 1990 - The New York University Club Library I (blue walls, painted copper), 2001, visual arts works, and Matton's page search enclosures privacy
Charles Matton – A Newborn Sculptor’s Studio I (fully emerged head), 1990 / The New York University Club Library I (blue walls, painted copper), 2001

Past, Imagination and Literature

It seemed that Matton’s artistic sense was never in step with the times. His Boxes originally served as props for his photography and painting, but they evolved over time and became his trademark. In the period between 1988 and 2007, 36 boxes, all in the scale of 1:7, and all were models of the interior. Some were inspired by the flat in Paris where Charles lived, others on the lives of the known people like Francis Bacon (his studio), and some were made from imagination, where the libraries were the recurring motif. These libraries were heavily influenced by the literature of James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges.

He was particurarly inspired by the work of Jorge Luis Borges

Charles Matton - Bedding II, 1986 - Alberto Giacometti's Studio Box with Charles Matton's Hand, 1986
Charles Matton – Bedding II, 1986 / Alberto Giacometti’s Studio Box with Charles Matton’s Hand, 1986

His Wife is Continuing Matton’s Legacy

The huge gap in the artist’s exhibition history comes from his decision to stop exhibiting publicly and instead paint for the chosen collectors and himself. He also worked for the Esquire and publishers like Christian Bourgois and Le Club Français du Livre. This happened between 1960 and 1983, and after that, he continued exhibiting his artworks regularly. The last movie he directed in his rich career was The Rembrandt in 1999. After Matton’s death in 2007, his wife Sylvie continued promoting his creations, and more exhibitions followed. His pieces are included in several prestigious collections like Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo in Japan, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, and in many private collections.

Charles Matton - The Blue Armchair in a Red Living Room, 1986 - The Corner of the Red Wall, 1987, arts enclosures the page
Charles Matton – The Blue Armchair in a Red Living Room, 1986 / The Corner of the Red Wall, 1987

Embrace the Surprises in Life

Sometimes life carries us in the directions we couldn’t even dream of. Charles Matton was a talented artist working in many fields, and he was good in everyone. In the end, what gained him fame was something that had a purpose to help in his other projects. Surprises are around every corner, and the way we deal with them defines us. Matton embraced this surprise and turned it into recognizable pieces of art. The boxes were miniature worlds inviting the viewers inside. Careful and very precise use of the lighting effects and mirrors gave the illusion that the place was much bigger than two cubic feet.

He is represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, Canada.

Charles Matton lived and worked in Paris.

Featured image: Charles Matton – The New York Loft, 26th Street, 1986 (detail) copyright © All Visual Arts.

All images copyright © Estate of Charles Matton.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Le peintre Charles Matton, cineaste et ecrivainBibliotheque National de FranceSolo
2015A Photographic SurveyStephen Bulger Gallery, TorontoGroup
2013Summer Lovin’Stephen Bulger Gallery, TorontoGroup
2012MetamorphosisAll Visual Arts, The Crypt, One Marylebone, LondonGroup
2012EnclosuresAll Visual Arts, LondonGroup
2012Charles Matton, PhotographiesAgathe Gaillard Gallery, ParisSolo
2011Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small RealitiesMuseum of Arts and Design, New YorkGroup
2011Charles MattonAll Visual Arts, LondonSolo
2011Charles MattonGalerie Agathe Gaillard, ParisSolo
2010Chalres Matton: RetrospectiveStadtische Museen, Iena, GermanySolo
2010Permanent installation of The Library Homage to Perec IVat the Bibliotheque Nationale de FranceGroup
2010Vanitas: The Transience of Earthly PleasuresAll Visual Arts, LondonGroup
2009Qui a peur des artistes?, selection of works from the Francois Pinault FoundationPalais des Arts, Dinard, FranceGroup
2009Great Way Prevails-Masterpieces of Modern ArtCAFA Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009Found ClassicsFound Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Charles Matton: Selected WorksForum Gallery, New YorkSolo
2007Etats de lieuxMaison Europeenne de la Photographie, ParisGroup
2006Carte Blance du Ministere de la Culture-Palais-RoyalParisGroup
2006Unknown21C Museum, Louisville, United StatesGroup
2006Permanent installation of a box (Early Morning at the Cafe de Flore)Cafe de Flore, ParisGroup
2005Important New Works by Forum Gallery ArtistsForum Gallery, New YorkGroup
2005Well DoneMOCA Taipei, TaiwanGroup
2004Charles Matton, New WorksForum Gallery, New YorkSolo
2003IllusionsForum Gallery, Los Angeles, United StatesGroup
2003Art of the Twentieth CenturyArmory Show, New YorkGroup
2003Charles Matton’s UniverseModern Art Gallery, Taichung, TaiwanSolo
2002Within These WallsForum Gallery, New YorkGroup
2002Art of the Twentieth CenturyArmory Show, New YorkGroup
2000FIAC 2000Galerie Beaubourg, Pierre and Marianne Nahon, ParisSolo
2000UnknownGalerie Beaubourg, Vence, FranceGroup
2000L’Appel de TangerInstitut du Monde Arabe, ParisGroup
1999Matton-RembrandtMaison Europeenne de la Photographie, ParisSolo
1999Deux ou trios choses que je sais de Rembrandt et de quelques autresGalerie Beaubourg, ParisGroup
1998Litterature et Bel cantoGalerie Beaubourg, ParisGroup
1994Constat de lieuxGalerie Beaubourg, ParisGroup
1992Retrospective et CitationsCentre d’Art Contemporain, Frejus, FranceGroup
1991Charles MattonEcole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, ParisSolo
1990L’Invention d’un ArtNational Museum of Modern Art of Kyoto and Tokyo (MoMAK), JapanGroup
1989UnknonwEspace Photographique, ParisGroup
1989L’Invention d’un ArtCentre Pompidou, ParisGroup
1987AntipodesPalais de Tokyo, ParisGroup
1983Seductions utopiquesGalerie Robert Delpire, ParisGroup
1961UnknownGalerie Raymond Mason and Janine Hao, ParisGroup
1960Cercle Volney with Michel CharpentierParisGroup
Charles Matton Photography Retrospective Exhibition Opening at Stephen Bulger Toronto

Charles Matton exhibition will present a selection of the artist's widely acclaimed works including images of his famous miniature boxes.

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