Matthew Smith was born in Halifax, Yorkshire. He studied at Manchester School of Technology and at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Visits to France encouraged his interest in French painting, but the outbreak of war found him in England. He took a studio in Fitzroy Street, where the painter Walter Sickert was his neighbour. The impact of Smith’s work lies principally in its use of colour: strong, brilliant contrasts with paint laid on generously and confidently. For he was a gifted and sensual colourist, and was equally attracted to the work of Old Masters as he was to Gauguin and the French Fauve painters. Despite living for an extended period in Paris, his early work, especially the Fitzroy Street nudes and Cornish landscapes, belong to the development of Post-Impressionism in Britain. These works possess a muscular vigour and directness quite alien to the predominant styles of painting in Britain at the time and are still remarkable for their immediacy. During World War II both Smith's sons were killed and, separated from his wife, he lived an increasingly solitary existence. He was knighted in 1954. A large group of his paintings was shown at the Venice Biennale in 1950, and a major retrospective shown at the Barbican Art Gallery, London in 1983.