Herbert Matter was born in Engelberg, Switzerland in 1907. He studied painting before moving to Paris to study with Fernand Léger, who became a lifelong friend. Matter worked in Paris as a graphic designer at the journal Arts et Métiers Graphiques as well as with the famed poster designer A.M. Cassandre. In 1932 he returned to Switzerland and found work designing posters for the Swiss Tourist Office. He utilized photography as a design tool, incorporating photomontage, collage, innovative typology, and juxtaposing imagery of different scales.
In 1935 Matter travelled to the United States to photograph a dance troupe and decided to stay in New York City. From 1936-38 he worked as a freelance photographer at Harper’s Bazaar under esteemed art director Alexey Brodovitch, who had been collecting Matter’s Swiss travel posters. Matter’s photographs were featured on numerous magazine covers, including: Bazaar, Vogue, Life, Fortune, and Arts & Architecture. Matter met Alexander Calder in 1936 when he photographed his work for the Pierre Mattise Gallery and they went on to have a strong friendship and working relationship that lasted many years.. In 1941 Matter married Mercedes Carles; the couple was very active in the New York art scene. Through Mercedes' friendship with Lee Krasner, Matter met Jackson Pollock and the two men became close friends, inspiring one another through their explorations of gestural abstraction.