Matta joined the French surrealist group in 1937 before moving to New York two years later. His paintings appear abstract but are based on drawings of erotic and violent scenes. In the two side panels of this triptych the imagery has a mechanistic, science fiction quality. But in the centre the forms are organic, suggesting references to sexual parts. Matta was concerned with capturing the inner world of the mind. Black Virtue evokes a mental landscape in an extreme combination of eroticism and violence.