Born in Switzerland in 1907, Herbert Matter studied with Fernand Léger in Paris, and worked with the famed poster designer A.M. Cassandre. In 1932 he returned to Switzerland and found work designing posters for the Swiss Tourist Office.
Matter moved to New York in 1935 and worked as a freelance photographer at Harper’s Bazaar under esteemed art director Alexey Brodovitch. Matter’s photographs were featured on numerous magazine covers. In 1936, through the Pierre Mattise Gallery, Matter met Alexander Calder and they became lifelong friends. Matter photographed Calder's work extensively through 1950.
In 1941 Matter married Mercedes Carles, daughter of the American abstract painter Arthur B. Carles and a great artist in her own right, who went on to found the New York Studio School. The couple was active in the New York art scene. Through Mercedes' friendship with Lee Krasner, Matter met Jackson Pollock and the two men became close friends. Matter’s work was included in several Museum of Modern Art exhibitions.
From 1943-1946 Matter worked with Charles and Ray Eames in Los Angeles and when he returned to New York, Matter began a twenty-year relationship with Knoll as a design and advertising consultant. In 1952 he joined the Yale faculty as a photography and graphic design professor, while also acting as a design consultant. In 1960 Matter started a nineteen year project photographing his fellow countryman Alberto Giacometti. Stanford University acquired the Herbert Matter archive in 2005.