Henry Matthews loves to paint. He thinks of painting as a bridge to another world, and another emotion. He calls the experience of painting enjoyable healing, and recalls students of his art classes going out “transformed and upbeat”. The female form and face are his favorite subjects.
Henry’s passion for art began when he saw the first comic book in his life. It was issue number 7 of Bissat El-Reeh (flying carpet in Arabic) which appeared on 14 February 1962. The cover, by Bahiga Tomassian, featured Aladdin on a magic horse above the clouds in a beautiful blue sky. This cover was so beautiful, it made him love drawing, colors and lines. At the time, he was a kid growing up in Beirut (British father, Lebanese mother).
In the late 1970s, after a stint trying to study engineering in the American University of Beirut, in the hope of becoming a shuttle astronaut, Henry moved to Fine Arts in the Lebanese American University. In the arts, he tried to bring up in his paintings some of the magic of the cover of Bissat El-Reeh No. 7.
In 1978, a fresh arts student, Henry got employed by the publisher of Bissat El-Reeh. He worked with him and later with the publisher of the Arabic editions of Superman, Batman and Little Lulu, introducing new concepts in Arabic comics publications. These were among the best years of his life despite the war in Lebanon. Henry later wrote and published the “Encyclopedia of Lebanese Comics” in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and the UNESCO’s World Book Capital initiative.
Henry never forgot his astronaut’s dream and strove to document space exploration. In the early 1990s, he wrote his 370-page book: “Encyclopedia of Rocket Aircraft and Space Shuttles” which was co-winner of the Best Arabic Scientific Book Award from the Kuwaiti Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences. He was later awarded the Yuri Gagarin Medal.
Henry’s many passions, besides painting, comics and the history of aerospace exploration, include animal care and rescue, and he will eventually produce a book chronicling his decades in this quest. He has written and lectured about his interests, including the history and translation of comics and the outlook for the genre.
Henry has held several exhibitions of his paintings and one exhibition about Lebanese comic books. He has taught art and graphic design in the American University of Beirut and the International College.