Matthew Burley – Portrait Painter


Charlie Howett smlBrought up in Cookham, portrait painter Matthew Burley uses original photographs to create unique and highly realistic art work. His affection for the village brings him back to the Festival.

From his early childhood Matthew has always been interested in painting and drawing. His mother worked in animation and his father is an architect so he thinks it’s highly likely there’s a genetic connection. At Desborough school he was lucky to have an excellent art teacher, Pamela Hutchins, and it was at school that he discovered portraiture: “I remember a school trip to the National Gallery during which I was completely captivated by John Singer Sargent’s ‘Carnation, Lilly, Lilly, Rose’ and he has remained my hero and inspiration”.

His work will be familiar to Cookham residents. For the past few years he has designed Christmas cards for the Cookham Society and will be doing so again this year.  As part of the Cookham Festival, he is putting on an exhibition at Elizabeth House where a wide range of his work will be on view.

Aside from the Christmas cards, Matthew is probably best known for his photorealism work, in particular, portraits. “Painting portraits from photographs allows me to capture the subjects at a perfect moment in time, showing tiny nuances in expression that only those closest to the subject will recognise”. He says that most of his work reflects the importance of family. “Sometimes my work is commissioned as a gift for a friend or loved one; at other times people want a lasting memory of a special moment or time in their lives”.

He also paints moments from films – an area he would like to expand upon in the future. “There are moments in certain films that mean a lot to me – in fact there’s a great shot in ET which I hope to start soon”

His other great interest is abstract painting, which he describes as the ‘Yin’ to his realism work’s ‘Yang’. “These paintings counter-balance the tight work of the realism but are still about forms in a space”.

Matthew can count a few celebs among his clients – probably the most well known is Sadie Frost who commissioned him to paint her and her children from a photograph. She told the Guardian newspaper that this was her favourite item saying, “I love this painting ……it seems to sum up their personalities….” He also did a four single covers and an album cover for Supergrass, having been a long time friend of Danny, the drummer.

Although he no longer lives in Cookham, Matthew and his family are still very attached to the village, visiting his parents, friends and clients every few weeks. He says “Although I have lived in many places around the world, I agree wholeheartedly with Stanley Spencer when he said, “Cookham is Heaven”. I feel very lucky to have been raised here and am very much looking forward to being part of the 2015 Cookham Festival”.

Matthew Burley – About 20 years is taking place at Elizabeth House 4-29 May.