Skip to main content

Yale Collection of Herbert Matter

Call Number: MS 1630

Scope and Contents

The Yale Collection of Herbert Matter contains materials that trace the personal and professional aspects of the life of an important graphic designer. The collection will be of interest to those studying the design career of Matter, the history of advertising or logos for the companies represented (especially Knoll, Inc.), the publications of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and to some extent, the life history of Matter.

The collection primarily focuses on Matter's work with clients, especially the magazine ads and promotional material he designed for Knoll between 1946 and 1966 and the publications he designed for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from 1959 to 1967. The biographical material includes both copies of his Paris diaries from 1928 to 1932 and copies of notes on an exhibition about Matter which took place in 1989. Other notable items in the collection are photograms created in a Yale class, and some photographs taken by Matter studying the value contrasts of tree bark. The majority of materials in this collection were amassed in support of a retrospective exhibition which took place at the Yale University Art and Architecture Gallery from January 16 to February 3, 1978.


  • 1928-1991


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exists must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Yale Art Gallery, 1991. Gift of Knoll, Inc., 1992.


Arranged in two series: I. Client Files, 1932-1974. II. Biographical Material, 1928-1991.


4 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of client files and biographical material related to Herbert Matter. The client files provide examples of Matter's logo, advertisement, and publication designs for several well known businesses, including Knoll, Inc., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the New Haven Railroad. The biographical material contains both works created by Matter, such as promotional material and photographs, as well as works about Matter, such as published articles and papers related to his teaching career at Yale. The majority of materials in this collection were amassed in support of a retrospective exhibition which took place at the Yale University Art and Architecture Gallery from January 16 to February 3, 1978.

Biographical / Historical

Herbert Matter was born in Engelberg, Switzerland, on April 25, 1907. He was encouraged by his family to pursue his artistic interests, which were apparent early in his life. The Matter family owned a dance hall and restaurant where they hung Matter's early paintings.

In the late 1920s Matter moved to Paris to be a part of the active art scene there. He studied with the painters Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant. He also assisted the graphic designer Adolphe Cassandre and the architect Le Corbusier. During his time in Paris, Matter started to move away from painting toward the graphic arts, especially photography, and he became a master of photomontage. Matter used this technique to great effect in several travel posters created between 1932 and 1936 for the Swiss National Tourist Office. This work established his reputation as a prominent and successful graphic designer.

Matter moved to New York City in 1936. He worked as photographer and designer for such magazines as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and for lesser known, but more cutting edge, publications like New Pencil Points. He also designed publications for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, as well as logos, publications, and advertising materials for many companies, most notably the New Haven Railroad and Knoll, Inc.

In 1952 Matter joined the faculty of the graphic design and photography programs at Yale University, where he taught until 1976. Matter was also involved with the New York Studio School, which his wife founded. As the Yale graduate program produced many successful designers, Matter's ideas became widespread in the graphic design world. Students remember Matter fondly and were greatly influenced by his teachings.

Matter died in Southampton, New York, on May 8, 1984.
Guide to the Yale Collection of Herbert Matter
Under Revision
compiled by Jae Rossman
December 2001
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours