Colombia, 1917 - Colombia, 1998
Born in Aracataca, Colombia ("El Macondo" by García-Márquez).
In 1933 he publishes his first caricatures in the magazine "Civilización" and holds his first exhibition of them in the confectionery Excelsior in Santa Marta, Colombia. Two years later he founds in Santa Marta the magazine "Lauros" and enters the National School of Fine Arts in Bogotá.
In 1937 Enrique Santos "Calibán", director of the newspaper "El Tiempo", encourages Matiz to work in photography for that publication and gives him a camera. He studies in the workshop of painter and photographer Luis B. Ramos.
In 1939 he makes his first tour in Colombia as a graphic reporter for special collaborations in the magazine "Estampa" and the newspapers "El Tiempo" and "El Espectador". The following year he travels to Panama and crosses Central America to continue on to Mexico, driven by his desire to link up with that country's film industry.
In 1941 his work is part of a group exhibition in El Salvador with the Costa Rican cartoonist and painter Francisco Amighetti. He travels to Mexico with his first wife Celia Nichols and joins the magazine "Así" as a photojournalist, with the support of Colombian poet Porfirio Barba Jacob. He exhibits at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and participates in an exhibition of Colombian artists living in that country inaugurated by Pablo Neruda. He collaborates with the magazines Mañana, Norte and Nosotros.
During the early 40's he exhibits at the Decoration Art Gallery in Mexico City and is linked to the Union of Cinematography of Mexico as film photographer with the support of Gabriel Figueroa and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. He makes the first castings for the film of the actress María Félix. He works with Dolores del Rio, Esther Fernández and Esther Williams, and also with Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" in the film "El Circo".
In 1945 he meets the film director Luis Buñuel and shows him his photographic work about the marginalized of Mexico City. The press awards him the prize as the best photojournalist in Mexico.
In 1946 he participates as a photographer in the film "Fiesta Brava", directed by Mr. Thorpe and starring Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán.
In 1947, he reports in New York for Life and North magazine as a special envoy to South America and exhibits in a group show at the MoMA. He collaborates with the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros in the project of the mural Cuauhtémoc contra el mito. He denounces the artist in the international press for plagiarizing his photographs in a series of paintings exhibited at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. His studio in that city is burned down and he leaves Mexico under the atmosphere of persecution and confrontation created by Siqueiros.
He travels in 1948 to Bogotá to cover the IX Pan-American Conference for Life magazine, is wounded in the popular insurrection that caused the crime of the liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. On that same day Matiz was scheduled to meet Gaitan, who would introduce him to young Fidel Castro. As a special observer of the United Nations (UN) in the Middle East, he is an eyewitness to the attack on Count Bernardotte, and the images of the murdered mediator are disseminated by all the international press agencies.
In 1949 he was recognized by the international press as one of the 10 best photographers in the world. A year later, together with the poet Álvaro Mutis, he carried out a series of reports on oil and the Magdalena River in Colombia.
In 1951 he founded the first art gallery in Colombia and exhibited the paintings of Fernando Botero for the first time. This gallery became the epicenter of cultural life in Bogota along with the Café Automático, frequented by León de Greiff, Jorge Zalamea, Gabriel García Márquez. The following year he organized the second exhibition of Botero.
At the end of the 50's, he became involved as a graphic reporter in the Venezuelan magazine "Momento". Together with Gabriel García Márquez, who worked for the same publication, he covered the fall of the dictator Marcos Perés Jimenez in Caracas. The photographs of the popular insurrection are published in Paris Match, among others.
In 1976 he worked as a photographer for Cinefilm on the film "El Pez que Fuma", by Venezuelan director Román Chalbaud.
The itinerant retrospective that the Museum of Modern Art of Bogota held in 1988 in Colombia, as a tribute to his 50 years of work as an artist and photographer, is worth highlighting.
In 1992, Il Diafragma Gallery organized a retrospective together with the Province of Milan, with the publication of "Leo Matiz, fotografie". His first book was published in Europe by Art-Studio Edizioni. Two years later he takes part in two photography group exhibitions in Europe and the USA. The Queens College Art Center in New York organized the exhibition "Vision of a Continent".
In 1995 he is awarded the Horus Sicof prize in Milan. He is named "Chevalier des arts et des lettres" by the French government. He exhibits at l'Espace Photographique in Paris (Maison Europeene de la Photographie). His book "The Third Eye" is published. Ediciones Gamma, Bogotá. The Instituto Europeo di Design in Milan exhibits "The characters of Leo Matiz".
In 1996 he returns to Mexico after half a century of absence, taking 10,000 photographs between 1996 and 1997. There he produced the book "Los hombres del campo", published in Japan.
In Florence he receives the Filo d'Argento prize in the Palazzo Vecchio and the Café Giubbe Rosse in Florence exhibits the exhibition Matiz-Siqueiros, fifty years later, Art for Art.
He dies in Santa Fé de Bogotá, Colombia, in 1998, when he was preparing a trip to Mexico for a tribute to him in the Postal Museum. During that same year he was given several tributes, books and documentaries.
Freijo Gallery presents the exhibition Pentagrama in 2012 in Madrid.
In 2016 the exhibition Frida Kahlo. Photographs by Leo Matiz at the Blue House is organized, curated by Angustias Freijo and Mario Martín, which was shown at La Térmica (Málaga, Spain), the Sala de las Francesas (Valladolid, Spain) and the Instituto de México (Madrid, Spain).
In 2020 his work is included in Latin American Metaphors, part of the LZ46 program of Freijo Gallery in Madrid.