Oil Portrait Painter & Educator
I started drawing people when I was two years of age. I am very clear that my destiny was always to become a portrait artist. What could be more fascinating than witnessing the spirit of a person emerge from my brush.
Oil Portrait Artist Biography
Marvin Mattelson is an award winning oil portrait painter who draws on over forty years of professional experience as an artist and educator. Nine of Marvin’s paintings are included in the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian Institution. Another painting has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their permanent collection.
His commissioned portraits hang in both private and corporate collections around the world. He has been commissioned to create eleven portraits for Velcro Industries (including CEO and Chairman-of-the-Board), Met Life, NYNEX, Rogers Electric and ITT Corporation. Other noteworthy commissions include the Board of Directors of MBNA, as well as composer Philip Glass, artist Louise Nevelson, writer/historian Conner Cruise O’Brien and the Archbishop of New York, Edward Cardinal Egan.
In addition, Marvin is a distinguished educator, who teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City in their undergraduate fine art and illustration departments. He also teaches independent online portrait painting classes as well as portrait painting and drawing workshops.
Whether commissioning a portrait or pursuing a course of study, rest assured, that Marvin is a consumate professional whose quest for perfection – in every aspect of his personal and artistic endeavors is unwavering.
Background and Education
The youngest of two children, Marvin was born in the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were lower middle class immigrants, who both worked with their hands and instilled upon him the ethic of hard work.
His mother was the neighborhood seamstress. His father was a sheet metal worker who, in order to afford the purchase of a home, worked two full-time jobs simultaneously.
At two years of age, after picking up a pencil and making a drawing of a man, Marvin was treated to a chorus of parental enthusiasm. Longing to relive that experience, he drew constantly, inspired by comic books and Mad Magazine. Bored by the slow pace of school, Marvin devoted himself to sketching in his notebook, much to the chagrin of his teachers who cautioned the grim fate that awaited a school boy who doesn't pay attention.
In high school, Marvin took an elective art class. The students were encouraged by the teacher, Rosemary Kozak, to enter a city-wide poster competition, sponsored by PSFS, the city's largest bank.
Marvin was shocked to learn that his poster won first prize. Up to that point, he had never really considered the viability of becoming an artist, due to the popular notion that all artists were destined to starve. Winning, the then princely sum of $250, made him consider that he might be able to keep food on the table, as well as a roof over his head, while pursuing the only thing that ever interested him, making pictures.
Marvin applied and was accepted to art school, where he anticipated getting the kind of training professional artists should recieve prior to embarking on their careers, which to him meant learning the craft of painting and drawing. Unfortunately, the prevailing teaching philosophy of the day was that technical instruction stifles creativity. Frustrated by his lack of painting acumen, the one thing he came away with was the knowledge that he would never ever paint to save his life.
With his BFA in tow, Marvin Mattelson moved to New York City to seek fame and fortune as a freelancer, doing cartoon illustrations – his oeuvre prior to attending college. His drawings caught the eye of famed art director Walter Bernard and soon he was working for publications like New York Magazine, Seventeen, Evergreen, Look, Sesame Street, National Lampoon, Playboy and The New York Times. Thanks to this early notoriety, Marvin was hired to teach an illustration portfolio class at the School of Visual Arts.
During the ensuing decade, his work gradually became more realistic. One fateful day, he accompanied his class to a lecture given by Wilson McClean, one of the top painter/illustrators of the day. Wilson discussed his basic approach, which was painting light into dark. This was the first piece of technical information that resonated as truthful with Marvin. So armed with that revelatory nugget – and ten years out of art school – he decided to, once again, try his hand at painting. So with the vaguest of ideas about what to do, and with no painted samples to show, he managed to convince an art director to let him to do a painting for an illustration job. Through trial-and-error – and within the constraints of a two-week deadline – Marvin miraculously managed to pull it off. And so began his storied career as a painter of pictures.
Within two years he was doing the kinds of assignments he had always dreamed of. Marvin's technical facility and his innovative and creative problem solving made him the illustrator of choice for many of the industry's high profile assignments. His artwork for the cover of the CD Chant, skyrocketed it to #3 on the Billboard Pop Charts and it became a cultural phenomena. His paintings graced movie posters such as The Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona and Martin Scorcese's After Hours as well as the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus. He received over sixty awards from the Society of Illustrators as well as numerous citations from the Art Director's Club, Graphis and Communication Arts.
He was commissioned to paint over twenty covers for Time Magazine as well as cover illustrations for Newsweek, Scientific American, Business Week, Fortune, Life, New York Magazine and Esquire. A partial list of clients includes IBM, MTV, FEDEX, Putnam, Warner Publishing, A&E, CBS, ABC, Angel Records, ABKO, Dream Works, Geffen Films, The National Geographic Society and The US Postal Service.
Illustration, as it turned out, proved to be the perfect training ground for Marvin's picture making skills. Due to the varied nature of his assignments, painting a wide assortment of subject matter gave him the opportunity to experiment with, lighting, color, textures and composition. In essence, Marvin, was getting paid to learn how to be an artist.
Despite being one of New York's top illustrators, Marvin felt something was missing, that the knowledge he accrued on his own was merely the tip of the iceberg. He longed to achieve the same level of virtuosity that was evident when viewing the works of the old masters in Museums. He realized that to keep growing as an artist, he needed to reach a deeper level of understanding in order to take his work to even higher levels.
Ten years into his painting career, a serendipitous encounter led to a course of study with John Frederick Murray, a former student of the late, legendary teacher, Frank Reilly. John generously shared Reilly's insights into the academic painting process and enlightened Marvin to the value of painting from life. Marvin will be forever grateful for his invaluable information and great encouragement. With this foundational knowledge as a springboard, Marvin has been able to realize new insights allowing him to continuously improve the quality his work.
Through Reilly's teacher George A. Bridgeman, Marvin traces his artistic heritage back through the French Academy where 19th Century academic stalwarts, such as Jean Leon Gerome and William Bouguereau, were revered instructors. Gerome studied with Paul DeLaroche, who in turn had been a student of Jacques Louis David—the spiritual forbearer of contemporary academic painting. Gerome's artistic progeny include Americans such as Bridgeman, Thomas Eakins, Dennis Miller Bunker and most notably, William McGregor Paxton – whom Marvin considers to be his greatest influence.
After thirty years of working in the field of illustration, Marvin chose to do an about-face and change career paths in order to focus on portrait painting, realizing that the painfully short illustration deadlines would never allow him to create the kind of work he envisioned.
Since a large portion of Marvin's assignments hinged on his ability to faithfully capture a likeness, he felt that portraiture made perfect sense. It would give him the opportunity to paint people, his favorite subject, as well as allowing him to devote sufficent time to each painting.
Marvin also hoped, based on his talent and level of understanding, that he could fill a void in the field of portraiture by creating beautiful, life-like and technically flawless oil portrait paintings, which he believed would appeal to the most discerning and knowledgable of clients. His current portrait work is informed by his knowledge of design and color, as an illustrator and provides him far greater flexibility and creativity than had he merely pursued a career as a fine artist.
To get his name out there and jump start his career, Marvin began entering portrait competitions to bolster his reputation and receive media exposure. It paid off. On January 11, 2013 Marvin Mattelson was featured on the NBC Nightly News on the subject of portraiture. While being interviewed by correspondent Kate Snow, Marvin painted a quick 25 minute oil study of her.
An article on portraiture, which appeared in New York Newsday, led to a commission to paint His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan, which The Portrait Society of America awarded First Place in their 2006 International Portrait Competition. The prior two years Marvin had received a Certificate of Merit and a Merit Award, as well as three Best Portfolio Awards, one each year.
Painting Kate Snow on NBC Nightly News
In 2003, The Artists Magazine selected him as an Award of Merit winner in their Art Competition Issue, after being a finalist in 2000 and 2001. Marvin's portrait, Stephen Fishbach, was given the Distinguished Merit Award at the New York Society of Portrait Artists 2002 National Invitational Members Juried Exhibition where his portrait, Eric, was used as the cover image for their Call for Entries,
In an ironic twist, Marvin, after leaving illustration, was commissioned by Fallon, a London based advertising agency to paint a series of portraits for an Old Speckled Hen advertising campaign. A world-wide search led them to Marvin whom they felt best exemplified the essence of 18th century portraitists, since his work, unlike that of most contemporary portrait artists, didn't rely on stylistic pastiche. These multi-figured portraits were utilized in both print and outdoor venues and Marvin, himself, was featured on the Old Speckled Hen website, surrounded by many bottles of ale.
The American Society of Portrait Artists honored Marvin Mattelson for his painting of Eric with Second Prize in their 2001 International Portrait Competition, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the previous year, his portrait of Karin had been a finalist. He was once again chosen a finalist in 2002, for an unprecedented third consecutive year, and was the Honors Award recipient for his portrait of Stephen Fishbach.
Marvin’s work has been featured in articles in Communication Arts, Print Magazine, Idea Magazine, and Step-by-Step Graphics Magazine and has appeared in numerous illustration, advertising and design annuals. He was the subject of a cover story for the Portrait Society of Atlanta's Folio Magazine, the focal point of a New York Newsday article on portrait painting, and was prominently featured in a cover article in the Artists Magazine's April 2012 issue.
Marvin, in his role as a dedicated educator, has developed a unique and comprehensive approach to teaching realistic oil painting and drawing. This serves as the ultimate foundation for anyone looking to make their artistic ambitions a reality. His students have reached exceptional levels of achievement in the fields of fine art, teaching, illustration, graphic design, animation, concept art and film. Marvin's online Fine Art Portrait Academy offers students from around the world the opportunity to profit from his lifelong knowledge and experience as a teacher and as an award winning artist .
Today Marvin Mattelson continues creating the finest quality portraits he is capable of producing. Portrait painting is the means to his artistic ends, and he utilizes his knowledge of color, form, light, technique and composition in order to create unrivaled, stunningly life-like portraits, as unique as the people he paints. Marvin's creedo, that his next portrait will be his best ever, ensures that he will never go stale.