Though he knew from an early age that he wanted to become an artist, Matvey Levenstein enrolled in architecture school in order to avoid studying the dominant Socialist Realist style in Russia. Since leaving Russia, Levenstein has returned to painting as a primary medium and has become known for his chronicles of quotidian life, family, and history. He chooses his subjects intuitively, but is most drawn to his immediate surroundings and preoccupations. For example, in the 1990s, Levenstein began to use childhood photographs, and photograph of or taken by his father, as a subject for his painting. He is also known for his ability to render soft light and to use color to describe tonal values. He is particularly influenced by the work of Vija Celmins and Mel Bochner.