April 10, 2019


Above and below, Mercedes Matter photographed by her husband, Herbert, in 1940.

This episode of notable Tudor City residents profiles painter Mercedes Matter, a player in the New York art scene of the 1940s. Her life, in bullet points:

✫  Born Mercedes Carles in 1913, daughter of an artist and a model. Shows an early interest in art and begins to paint in the abstract style in her teens.

✫  Hired as an assistant/translator for Fernand Léger, famed French painter, in 1936. Léger goes on to introduce her to her future husband, Herbert Matter, a Swiss photographer and graphic designer.

✫  The couple hit it off immediately and Mercedes is soon living with Herbert in No. 45, where he rents two apartments: a modest studio used for sleeping, and a grand penthouse used for working.

Two illustrations of the work space, below.
Studio in New York (Tudor City) by Herbert Matter, ca. 1937.

Herbert Matter's Studio by Mercedes Matter, ca. 1937

✫  They marry, and relocate to a rowhouse at 328 E. 42nd St. [since demolished], next to The Woodstock. Active in the emerging New York art scene, the couple socializes with a number of about-to-be-very-famous artists: Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning and Alberto Giacometti, among others. Given her striking looks, Mercedes is considered something of a femme fatale within the group.

Mercedes photographed by Herbert in Provincetown, 1940

✫  The Matters leave Tudor City around 1943, eventually setting down roots in Greenwich Village and East Hampton. In 1964, Mercedes founds the New York Studio School, a highly regarded art school emphasizing drawing from life, which proves to be her legacy.


Years later in 2003, the Matters' only child, Alex, discovers a cache of reputed Jackson Pollock paintings in his father's storage locker. But that's a whole other story.

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