The idea of painting is to make the invisible visible—and the only means we have to do this is the visible. As impossible as this sounds, I believe it to be the case.

Bonnard did it almost literally: the colors of the spectrum which reside in the air, in light, which are (relatively) invisible (seen occasionally in a rainbow), he made manifestly and abundantly visible in his paintings. He puts color where you don't see or expect any color, and you don't realize until he shows it to you that it was there all the time. It is one of the secret motives of nature. Another is movement. Van Gogh intuited the secret movement in things, the ki, and made it visible for us. With Chardin it is possibly more mysterious: you don't know how or why life is present in his paintings, it just is. He imbued them with the mystery that is life. Gregory Gillespie had this quality too—a kind of intensity—but he put his own crazy spin on it. It's serious but it's playful.

Matisse said that the only light that matters is the light in the artist's brain. He was doing the same thing as Bonnard was—using color as the equivalent of light.

Some abstract painters—the ones who "stract from"—notably Diebenkorn, Hodgkins, Gorky and deKooning, to name the first ones that come to mind—do succeed in making something visible invisible. But for the most part the painters who intrigue me are the ones who have confronted nature, stood in it and worked from it, and seen in it something they were able to give back to us in a visibly understandable form. Cézanne is the best example of this.

The further an artist goes in response to this problem—of making the visible invisible—the closer he comes to the motives of nature.

        — Paul Matthews, 2/16/01
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1) Why do you paint?
Painting is a way of saying what can't be said any other way. Painting is a way of giving form to one's feelings. Painting, it turns out, is about responsibility in its original form—in the sense that it is a response to the visible world. Painting is my way of getting even with the world and making love to it at the same time. I paint to deserve to live. And—to quote my old friend Marty Washburn—painting is "my way of being with people."

2) What is it about the landscape that intrigues you?
Its beauty of course. In my pursuit of natural beauty I am always confounded, because whatever I have done, or attempted, nature always presents me with something more beautiful—as if to mock me.

3) Why do you paint so many nudes, as opposed to clothed figures?
Partly it's that my training has all been drawing and painting from the nude model, but it is my preference too. The human form, nude, in all its variations, is at its most mysterious, fascinating and beautiful.

        Woman defies discovery
        In this or any century
        Since her complete disrobery
        Reveals but denser mystery.

It's also more than likely that my extremely puritan religious upbringing, with its formative years of deprivation, have enhanced, or exacerbated (depending on your viewpoint) my obsession with sex.

4) You seem to give particular attention to breasts...
Yes. Breasts are not only sexual objects to me: they are the loving warmth and heart of a woman—forgiving, comforting, consoling and life-affirming.

        — Paul Matthews, 9/26/06
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From Painting Notes, 2004-2006

A tension is created between the intention and what happens. If 'what happens' wins, it's better.

In the last fifteen years I have been working towards a resolution of "tight" and "loose" within one work. This present show is the latest version of that effort.

The physicist David Bohm has described reality as being "unbroken wholeness in flowing movement". Despite the evidence, that is what I am after: the 'crystal in the matrix of connective tissue'. I've always felt my painting instinct to be neuron-vascular.

The great beauty of painting is that everything it says is silent.

In the long battle between painting how things look as opposed to how things feel, though I love both, it turns out that I really like best to paint the way they feel; which turns out to have a look of its own. Sometimes 'look' and 'feel' are one. That's what I hope to make them in my painting.

My purpose in painting is to give flesh to an idea—maybe I should say to a strongly-felt idea. As Yeats put it, "You can't know the truth, you can only embody it." My teacher, Sydney Delevante, told a wonderful story about a first grade kid who, when asked how he went about drawing, said, "I make a 'think' and draw a line around it'. That's pretty much how i proceed, but I am influenced by what happens.

How can the painting be separate from the subject matter, any more than the body can be separate from the spirit?

Some days I feel as if I could finish every unfinished painting in my studio—some days I feel too timid to touch anything, even to start. (But I start anyway.)

Over and over again I've been given the lesson of fear and courage, of lack of confidence and faith: yesterday, as I got towards the end of my day working on Sam Elworthy's head, and began painting wet into wet, slightly heavier paint into wet but thinner paint, and discovered (for the hundredth? thousandth? time) how easy and natural and right this was, wondering why I don't always do it... and then, of course, I was too tired and my knees hurt too much to go on. So I left it to stiffen and dry. This is the lesson—or should be—that there's nothing to fear: take the chance.

        — Paul Matthews, 2007
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1957-60 Cooper Union Art School, NYC (highest achievement prize)
1951-54 Kenyon College, Ohio
1946-51 South Kent School, Connecticut

1955-57 U.S. Army


Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, Trenton, NJ, 2011
NJ State Museum, Trenton, NJ, 2003
Philadelphia Art Alliance, 2000
Atea Ring Gallery, Westport, NY, 1990, '91, '93, '95, '96, '98, '99, '01, '04, '09
Riverrun Gallery, Lambertville, NJ, 1994, '96, '98, '01
Karl Stirner Gallery, Easton, PA, 1984
Penn State University, State College, PA, 1981
Swanson Gallery, High Bridge, NJ, 1980
Gill/St. Bernard's School, Bernardsville, NJ, 1978
Albany Junior College, Albany, NY, 1977
Viridian Gallery, NYC, 1977
Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, 1976
Stover Mill, Erwinna, PA, 1968, '72, '80, '84
Zabriskie Gallery, NYC, 1964, '66


Genest Gallery, Lambertville, NJ, 1991


University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, 1996
Lake Placid Center for the Arts, NY, 1980
Bucks County Art Center, PA, 1985 The Gallery at the State Theater, Easton, PA, 1991


SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, 1997


Walter Wickiser, NY, 2003
NJ State Museum, Trenton, 2001
National Academy of Design, NY, 2000
Philadelphia Sketch Club, 2000 (First Award), 2001, 2003 (First Award)
Viridian Gallery, NY, 1999
Atea Ring Gallery, Westport, NY, 1994, '03, '04, '07
The Ellarslie Open (Trenton City Museum), 1992, 1999 (Best of Show), '00, '02 (Best of Show), '04, '05
Easton Arts Conservatory, PA, 1987
Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 1987
Coryell Gallery, Lambertville, NJ, 1983-99
Phillips Mill, Solebury, PA, 1977-80, '82-'86, '88, '05
Gallery K, Washington, DC, 1977
Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, 1976, '83
Hunterdon Art Center, CLinton, NJ, 1974, '75, '87, '01
SUNY at Albany, NY, 1974
Philadelphia Art Alliance, PA, 1976, '83
Zabriskie Gallery, NY, 1965
MOMA Art Lending Program, 1964-65
Parke-Bernet, NYC, 1964


"Life on a String", shown Chicago Film Festival, 1973


Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada
Birkenhead Gallery, Liverpool, England
Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, NY
Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, Trenton, NY
Yeshiva University Museum, NYC


Russell Banks, NY
Henry & Kathleen Chalfant, NYC
Helen Craft, Rockville, MD
Mr. & Mrs. J.A. Frank, NYC
Mr. & Mrs. Peter Haje, NYC
John Heffernan, NYC
Julie Hotton, NYC
Mr. & Mrs. Schuyler Jackson, VT
Leon Kirchner, NY
Reubrn Nakian, NYC
G.B. Ollinger, North Port, FL
Charles Ramsburg, NYC
John Rawlings, NYC
Elaine Restifo, Lambertville, NJ
Karl Stirner, Easton, PA
Mr. & Mrs. Robert Worth, NYC

and many others
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