Matthew Grabelsky’s Realistic Oil Paintings Depicting People with Animal Heads Gaining Global Recognition

“My realistic oil paintings depict people with animal heads, often riding the New York City subway. I use fun details that connect to specific animals to tell humorous stories. I became fascinated by animals as a child during frequent trips to the zoo. I was also enthralled by the fantastical stories my parents read to me. An Art History class in college sparked my interest in classical European figurative paintings. I loved how these works presented views of the world that my mind could wander around in. I wanted to create my own contemporary version of them, so I studied classical painting techniques and hit on the idea of anthropomorphic figures with animal heads. I grew up in New York where the subway was the central place everyone came together so this became the primary setting for my characters.”- Matthew Grabelsky

Your art shows a hyperrealistic painting technique with a surreal penchant for unlikely juxtapositions. Tell us about your work. 

I make realistic oil paintings of people with animal heads. I fell in love with classical European painting during an art history class in college. I loved how these painters were able to create visual stories, often with mythological characters, and I wanted to make something that followed in their footsteps. After college I moved to Italy to study classical painting techniques and eventually hit on the idea of creating a modern version of mythology where people with animal heads go about their days while riding the subway in New York City were I grew up.

Why have you chosen animals as your focus? 

My parents took me to the zoo a lot when I was a kid and that started my fascination with animals. I love how they seem just like us in some ways and are completely alien in other ways.

Much of your work depicts your characters on subways, and males with mythological human hybrids. Which have resonated the most with collectors?

The first painting that I did in this series was me with a bull head and my girlfriend at the time sitting next to me on the New York City subway. It felt both personal and captured my unique mix of interests in a way nothing else I painted up to that point had done. It was also the first piece that people who saw my work really responded to. That led to a series of similar paintings with a couple where the man had an animal head. Eventually I decided to expand my imagery and started painting the women with animal heads as well.

Luckily I found that as my worked changed, people continued to collect it. As an artist I think its important to evolve, and I’m happy that my collectors have followed my journey with me.

Where can we see your work?

My next show is coming up in January with Thinkspace in Los Angeles. I’ve got a bunch of new paintings at various degrees of completion that I’m excited to share when they’re done.

Instagram: @grabelsky

Twitter: @grabelsky

TikTok: @grabelsky

Facebook: grabelsky


Jules Lavallee

Jules Lavallee is an International Journalist from Los Angeles, CA. For the past eight years, she has covered celebrities, global leaders, royalty, entrepreneurs for over 20+ magazines and countless cover stories. Staying true to roots in Boston, MA, Jules is a true humanitarian. She has supported many nonprofits in fundraising, strategic partnerships, and media. She has served on the Board of Big Brothers & Big Sisters and is currently on the Board of Fund Duel, gamified fundraising platform. She is an influential person in the areas of gender equality, diversity, and empowerment. She is a graduate of Harvard University.

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