Most known for her leadership as the founder of the New York Studio School in 1964, Mercedes Matter’s firm belief in observation as means to finding form through drawing and painting is evidenced in her work and her methodology of teaching. Her father, the American modernist Arthur B. Carles, had studied with Matisse and her mother, Mercedes de Cordoba, was a model for Edward Steichen. She began painting under her father’s supervision at age 6, and studied art at Bennett College in Millbrook, N.Y., and then in New York City with Maurice Sterne, Alexander Archipenko and Hans Hofmann.
In the late 1930’s, she was an original member of the American Abstract Artists organization and worked for the federal Works Progress Administration, assisting Fernand Léger on his mural for the French Line passenger ship company. Léger introduced her to Herbert Matter, the Swiss graphic designer and photographer, whom she married in 1939.
Matter's educational background, family life and exposure to and relationships with a rich assortment of modernists and Abstract Expressionists, varied circle of colleagues, friends and mentors, together culminated in her distinctive identity as an artist and mentor.