After leaving art school, Matthew specialised in drawing nudes, executing compelling life-size studies of young contemporaries. When he subsequently confined himself to carrying out portrait commissions, the careerist approach proved stultifying. The ensuing fallow period ended when he abandoned painting and devoted himself to refining his technique as a draughtsman. The sitters for his portrait drawings were now of his own choosing, and included Jamaican Rastafarians, mummified corpses from Sicilian catacombs, and the occupants of a Shanghai tenement. Initially, however, he resisted returning to large-scale nude studies, perhaps seeing it as a regressive step.
It was only after completing chemotherapy to combat leukaemia that he embarked on another cycle of nude drawings. Finding models was not difficult, though there was a brief misunderstanding when he asked one young man, “Would you be prepared to take your clothes off for me?” He forged friendships with the students who posed for him, producing ten hauntingly beautiful nude studies that surpassed his earlier works.
The return of Matthew’s leukaemia terminated this burst of creativity. Weeks after receiving a bone marrow transplant he mustered sufficient strength to mount the stairs to his studio, wanting another look at these drawings. Days later he was readmitted to hospital, satisfied that his most recent work was arguably his finest.
All images are taken from the recent “Matthew Carr (1953-2011) Memorial Exhibition” at the Marlborough Fine Art gallery, London.
A fully illustrated catalogue with texts by Nicola Shulman and Alan Jenkins is available from Marlborough Fine Art.