Because his father - Sergey Matveyev - was a notable diplomat, Artamon Matveyev was brought up at the royal court since the age of thirteen, where he would become close friends with Alexius I. Matveyev started his career as a government official, who worked in Ukraine and took part in some of Russia's wars with Poland. He was a member of the Russian delegation at the conclusion of the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654 and Russian diplomatic mission to Poland in 1656-1657. As the head of the Streltsy Department, Matveyev participated in suppression of the Copper Riot in 1662. Seven years later, he was put in charge of the Malorossiysky Prikaz, i.e. Ministry of the Ukrainian Affairs, and in 1671 - head of the Posolsky Prikaz (foreign ministry) and other ministries. Matveyev was known to have considered unification of Ukraine and Russia as the most important issue of the Russian foreign policy. He once said that it was even possible to temporarily forget about the struggle with the Swedes for the Baltic Sea for the sake of unification with Ukraine. In 1672, Matveyev managed to secure Kiev for Russia during the talks with Poland.
In 1671, the tsar Alexius I and Artamon were already on intimate terms, and, on the retirement of Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin, Matveyev became the tsar's chief counselor. It was at his house that Alexius, after the death of his first consort Maria Miloslavskaya, met Matveyev's ward and favorite student, the beautiful Natalia Naryshkina, whom he married on 22 January 1671. At the end of the year Matveyev was raised to the rank of okolnichy, and on 1 September 1674 attained the still higher dignity of boyar. The deplorable physical condition of Alexius's immediate successor, Feodor III, suggested to Matveyev the desirability of elevating to the throne the sturdy little tsarevich Peter, then in his fourth year. He purchased the allegiance of the Streltsy and then, summoning the boyars of the council, earnestly represented to them that Feodor was unable to reign and urged the substitution of little Peter. But the reactionary boyars, among whom were the near kinsmen of Feodor, proclaimed him tsar and Matveyev was banished to Pustozyorsk, where he remained till Feodor's death on 7 May 1682. Immediately afterwards Peter was proclaimed tsar by Patriarch Joachim, and the first ukaz issued in Peter's name summoned Matveyev to return to the capital and act as chief adviser to the tsaritsa Natalia. Matveyev came to Moscow on 11 May, and four days later had to meet with the rebellious Streltsy, who had been instigated to rebel by the anti-Petrine faction. He had already succeeded in partially pacifying them, when one of their colonels began to abuse the still hesitating and suspicious musketeers. Infuriated, they seized Matveyev and hacked him to pieces.
Matveyev was a very educated and versatile individual for his time. He organized a publishing house on the premises of the Posolsky Prikaz and compiled the so-called Book of Titles (Царский титулярник), an illustrated reference book about titles of the Russian tsar and foreign rulers, with some information on Russian history, pictures of different coats of arms, stamps, monarchs and patriarchs. Matveyev was also a collector of rare books and had a huge library. He decorated his house with pieces of fine art, optical devices and models of different ships. Matveyev was the one to introduce theater to the court by organizing a group of actors who staged various plays. He was also one of the organizers of the first apothecary in Moscow. His son Andrey Matveev was made a count and served as the first President of Justice Collegium.