Paul Matthews

160 pp.

6 x 9, Paperback


May 2016


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Noted painter Paul Matthews looks back on his boarding school years at the South Kent School in Connecticut.

With his artist’s eye and an extraordinary memory for detail, Paul Matthews brings to life a time and a place that no longer exist: South Kent School in the 1940s was a Calvinistic, unforgiving world. Matthews writes of his teachers, fellow students, and especially headmaster with insightful appreciation—even love. But what gives this book poignancy are his reflections on spirituality and his youthful struggle to be “good” while chafing at a sense of obligation he can’t escape. His years at South Kent left him “permanently guilty and forever undeserving” with a “lifelong ambivalence” that “drove a wedge between my heart and my mind.” While much of what he was taught so fiercely was “anathema to an artist,” he survived to become a highly accomplished painter, and in the end a poet as well. It’s a fascinating look at what makes a man.
—Suzi Wizowaty, author of The Return of Jason Green

Paul Matthews is a beautiful writer and his vivid memoir, a remarkable coming-of-age story, brings the ever-more-distant world of the New England boarding school alive. His moving evocation of another time and place is told with sadness, love, and extraordinary honesty. I read every word.
—Jeffrey Frank, author of Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage

The boy at the heart of Paul Matthews’s memoir of his adolescence is a touching, resilient, sensitive lad trapped in a spartan world governed by all the Puritan ethics—work, sex, male rivalry, and family relations, real and imagined. Matthews’s late-life look back at these years is as touching as the boy in his book: he’s as honest and clear and ethically rigorous now in his eighties as he was in his teens.
—Russell Banks, author of A Permanent Member of the Family

Paul Matthews, in his memoir of his five years at South Kent School, paints a picture of the child he was and the man he has become. Subjecting himself to intense scrutiny, Matthews captures his struggle to simultaneously live up to expectations and to rebel against them in an account that evokes both nostalgia and relief that the past is past. He is an enthusiastic, sensitive, and wincing guide, the kind of companion one delights in and trusts.
—Betsey Osborne, author of The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe

This remarkable memoir, so full of rich detail and vivid scenes, is first and foremost a delightful and compelling read. Paul Matthews has fearlessly and lyrically created a self-effacing portrait of himself as an adolescent and of his school, schoolmates, and teachers that is more than simply wonderfully entertaining and surprising—it is enlightening and moving.
—John Levy, author of Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs

Paul Matthews studied at Cooper Union Art School in New York, where he won the Highest Achievement Award in 1960. In 1967, he and his wife settled in Pennsylvania on the banks of the Delaware River to raise their four children. He maintains a studio in Lambertville, New Jersey, where he has lived since 1987. His work is in the permanent collections of the Yeshiva University Museum in New York City, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York, the Trenton City Museum in New Jersey, the Birkenhead Gallery in Liverpool, England, and in many private collections.