Marta Grigorieva – Portrait of a Riviera Artist

Marta Grigorieva is a Russian-born, now Monaco-based artist who specialises in painting fine art portraits. She has captured on canvas some of the world’s top celebrities, Royals and high-profile people. Her work, beyond hanging in private collections, has also been exhibited worldwide, including Sothebys of New York, Sochi Art Museum and Harvard University.

Can you give a little background as to your journey to become an artist?
From the earliest age I can remember, I imagined and saw faces on the surfaces of people and animals. I started drawing aged six. After qualifying with a degree in Economics, I turned my focus to art. I worked in the 1990s at Christies auction house in New York and then returned to academia to study fine arts and art history at Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. I also took painting courses at the university. I went on to study with the artist Nelson Shanks at the Art Student League, perfecting figure and portrait painting for five years. After moving to Italy in 2001, I began to receive commissions to decorate public spaces with murals, interiors and exteriors of buildings. Many commissions and exhibitions followed. Today I paint full time.

Who or what are your key influences in your work?
Nelson Shanks, my mentor at Arts Student League of New York – and the best portrait artist in America in my opinion. His method and technique are timeless; academic painting with impressionist colours. He has painted President Clinton among others. Other great artists inspire me. Those who painted with a distinct way of seeing light and colour, applying secret geometry within their art. Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Sargent, Matisse, Picasso, Lucien Freud to name a few.

You paint between your studio and clients’ homes. Does this affect your work?
The current portrait I am working on, commissioned by a Monaco family, is a life-size portrait of five people. The painting is being done in their villa in Cannes, where I am putting the final touches directly on to the canvas and the wall where it will be displayed. This young, beautiful family with three young daughters, alternate sittings for the portrait. I worked for the first two months on this portrait in my studio from photographs. The final 3 months has been in the family’s house. It helps getting to know the personality of the sitters, observing how they interact as a family.

How do you capture so evocatively the ‘life’ of a subject onto canvas?
Painting from life sittings helps to capture the moment in time; the essence and personality of the subject of a portrait. I  always striving to convey a life-likeness and resemblance. And it helps to get to know my subjects before painting them.Princess Michael of Kent, Oil on canvas, 70cm x 50cm (2011)

Which subjects made your personal favourite paintings?
I have enjoyed painting famous subjects such as Princess Michael of Kent, Nelson Mandela, and Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Stelios also commissioned me to paint Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra from their concert in New York. The painting hangs in his music room near a grand piano. I painted this work in Monaco in 2011 in a magnificent building overlooking the Metropol Hotel, the Casino, and the sea. That was very inspirational!

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Oil on canvas, 120cm x 90cm (2012)

Why do think the fine art portrait is still an important art form today?
In Pre-Revolution Russia representatives of my family were among the oldest hereditary nobility. We had portraits in the family and it has always been a tradition. These portrait’s are part of our history and remain for posterity. Portraiture is also in high demand in countries such as UK or France. There is a timeless element to most portraits. Paintings always tell a story and portraits reflect historical situations of their time.

You also teach children art in and around Monaco. Tell us about this aspect of your work.
Art opens doors for so many creative professions. I teach children in Monaco and it’s great satisfaction to be able to help children to find their unique direction in life. Helping to develop and nurture future generations of people who will shape our world. Fashion designers or graphic artists, fine artists, filmmakers – a variety of professions inspired by visual creative flair. Art is not simply decorative, but empowers commercial enterprise. It is my hope to develop an art school in Monaco, where children can become familiar in a playful way with important cultural elements of art history and painting. This, I believe, will make them more aware and prepare for the future success.

Twin Sisters, Oil on canvas, 70cm x 50cm (2008)

To commission Marta or to enquire about private art lessons, contact mgpaintings[at] or visit her official website at

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