A Closer Look: Matt Woodward

I love architectural drawings, especially historic ones of the hyper-realistic variety.  So you can imagine my delight when I came across the work of Matt Woodward, a contemporary artist whose drawings are inspired by historic examples of architectural ornament.


Much of Woodward’s work is a reflection on Louis Sullivan, the famous Chicago Architect who coined the phrase “form follows function” and was responsible for such buildings as the Chicago Stock Exchange and Carson Pirie Scott Department Store.  He became famous for using elaborate ornamentation on the surface of his buildings.

Matt Woodward’s large drawings capture the massive scale of Sullivan’s architectural ornament, filling the walls of even the largest galleries.   At first glance, I thought the drawings were made with charcoal rubbings – but it these pieces were in fact meticulously drawn by hand using discarded construction materials.

Chicago artist_Matthew Woodward_Ritz drawing detail

(above: detail of a drawing by Matthew Woodward, below: detail of Louis Sullivan’s ornament)

It is fascinating how these drawings seem to conduct the space around them with their architectural scale.   The Ritz Carlton Residences in Chicago apparently liked this effect, and recently commissioned a series of drawings by the artist (below):

Chicago artist_Matthew Woodward_Farwell Building

Woodward’s solo exhibition “Louis Sullivan’s Idea” opens this weekend at Chicago’s Cultural Center.


images: Matt Woodward and Ritz Carlton Blog

2 thoughts on “A Closer Look: Matt Woodward”

  1. Hello,
    I was at Mr. Woodward’s opening at the Chicago Cultural Center yesterday and I think it’s important to note that while his work is definitely inspired by Sullivan’s designs, none of the images you have here are drawings of Sullivan pieces or pieces by Sullivan. Also, none of the pieces are done on discarded construction materials. The artist uses high quality paper of a thickness that performing a rubbing would be simply impossible not to mention that a rubbing would yield the inverse of what you see in Woodward’s drawings. The exhibition is entitled “View From The Birth Day” and is inspired by a show called “Sullivan’s Idea”. This information is available on a printed handout at the Cultural Center. All this being said, the work is monumental, beautiful, ethereal and is absolutely worth seeing.

  2. Jason,

    Thanks for your comment on this story! It was great to learn more about Woodward’s work through you. I wanted to mention that image 4 on our blog post is a photograph of a Louis Sullivan ornament.

    Thanks again!


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