Matthew Hillier's extraordinary wildlife paintings offer the viewer a unique vantage point. His paintings express more than the physical characteristics of a species; they reveal something of its personality.
Now living in the U.S., Hillier was born in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1958 and grew up near Windsor Castle. Drawing and painting animals is something he has loved to do since he was a child. Hillier's father was a museum designer who taught his son the rudiments of painting with watercolor, a medium
Hillier used during his years as an illustrator, along with gouache. In recent years, when he made the transition from an illustrator to a wildlife artist, he also switched to acrylic because it involves a looser painting process.
Traveling widely in search of subjects to study and paint, Hillier has visited Africa several times (where he was charged by an angry elephant), India, other parts of Europe and Southeast Asia. He loves the big cats and rhinos and finds himself drawn to water birds. Since moving to the States, he has begun painting North American subjects in addition to the dramatic African and bird subjects for which he is renowned.
When doing field research, Hillier sketches and also takes photographs, finding that while the photos are very useful for details of color, shape, background and texture, sketching forces him to "observe in a way that I don't when I take a photograph...I need the observation that comes from sketching. It's how I get to feel the subject."
Hillier studied at Dyfed College of Art in Carmarthen, West Wales, graduating with distinction. Three of his paintings were accepted by the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and he has exhibited regularly at the Pastel Society, the Society of Wildlife Artists, where he is a council member, The Royal Institute and the Miniature Society, as well as the Paris Salon, the Royal Society of Marine Artists and the Biarritz Salon. A member of the Society of Animal Artists, his work is part of their traveling exhibition. He has participated in Christie's Wildlife Art Auction, and his work has also been included in Leigh Yawkey Woodson's touring show of "Birds in Art." He has had one-man exhibitions throughout Great Britain and has illustrated several books. In 1995, he won the World Wildlife Fund Fine Art Award. In 1998 he received The People's Choice Award from The Florida Wildlife and Western Art Expo, and he has received The Society of Animal Artists' Award of Excellence in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
A regular contributor to the Guinness Book of Records illustrating the wildlife section, Hillier spent two years illustrating The Rhinoceros, a monograph. This entailed traveling to Africa and Sumatra to study rhinos, after which he produced 20 large plates of portraits and paintings of five species of rhino, in addition to behavioral sketches. Rhinos are, he says, "wonderful subjects to paint."
The love Hillier feels for his subjects is evident in his work. He will, as he says, "paint anything that moves. I paint animals because I love animals, and part of loving animals is being concerned about what's happening to species in the wild."