Custom House celebrates Richard ‘Dick’ Matson’s lesser-known works

Above: “Butch,” by Dick Matson. Left: Matson painting before his days in Key West..

Above: “Butch,” by Dick Matson. Left: Matson painting before his days in Key West..

Key West Art & Historical Society celebrates the work of painter Richard Peter Matson in “You Don’t Know Dick: The Lesser Known Works of Richard Peter Matson,” which opens with a reception on Friday, April 19, from 6 -7:30 p.m. in the Bryan Gallery at the Custom House Museum (281 Front St.). The exhibit will reveal a collection of his lesser-known works, selected by the artist who has lived and worked in Key West for more than 40 years.

“People who know Dick are accustomed to seeing him plein air painting, spotlighting the architecture and flora of Key West,” says society curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D. “Dick’s body of work is much greater than that, and I believe the contents of the exhibit will truly surprise museum visitors.”

Educated at The Cooper Union Art School in New York City, followed by graduate studies at Yale University’s School of Art in New Haven, Conn., the Brooklyn, N.Y., native went on to work in advertising, with painting as an avocation.



“I painted everything; I was mad for painting,” he says. “The holy ghost was there guiding my hand.”

Inspired by the island’s color and light, his visit to Key West in 1975 was “love at first sight.” With his masterful handling of paint, color and imagery, and trademark tropical light, saturated colors and mysterious shadows, the plein air painter eventually became one of Key West’s most prominent artists.

But the work in this upcoming exhibit, rather than a celebration of the island’s flora and fauna as revealed in Key West Art & Historical Society’s previous exhibit of his work, “Key West: The Sea, The Sky, The City,” examines creations that have emerged from other eras of his life as an artist.

“It seems only right that with all of the things that I’ve inherited, got back or kept, I should have a show of what I’ve been doing besides plein air painting,” he says.

Works include painted portraits from the 1970s and 1980s, photograph portraits taken as a Yale University graduate student, series of greeting cards from his very successful greeting card business Astrological Occassions, projects created during his advertising executive days in New York City, including mugs and album covers for Columbia Records, hand-blown and decorated Christmas eggs and paintings of non-Key West subjects, such as Fire Island and the Grand Tetons, many of them works collected by his closest friend, who passed last year.

“Even his admirers will have to admit that they ‘don’t know Dick’ as well as they thought,” says Convertito.

“You Don’t Know Dick: The Lesser Known Works of Richard Peter Matson” runs through July 7. For more information, call Cori Convertito at 305-295-6616, ext. 112, email or visit

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