Flex Mentallo

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Everything posted by Flex Mentallo

  1. There, in the happy no-time of his sleeping, Death took him by the heart. There heaved a quaking Of the aborted life within him leaping, Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.
  2. Under his helmet, up against his pack, After so many days of work and waking, Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
  3. In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin, If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,- My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. Wilfred Owen
  4. Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, But someone still was yelling out and stumbling And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.- Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
  5. Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs, And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
  6. For after Spring had bloomed in early Greece, And Summer blazed her glory out with Rome, An Autumn softly fell, a harvest home, A slow grand age, and rich with all increase. But now, for us, wild Winter, and the need Of sowings for new Spring, and blood for seed. Wilfred Owen
  7. War broke: and now the Winter of the world With perishing great darkness closes in. The foul tornado, centred at Berlin, Is over all the width of Europe whirled, Rending the sails of progress. Rent or furled Are all Art's ensigns. Verse wails. Now begin Famines of thought and feeling. Love's wine's thin. The grain of human Autumn rots, down-hurled.
  8. Yet the vast majority were published in black and white, which perhaps, from our perspective, seems more suited [as though it were shocking to make beauty out of suffering and slaughter].
  9. It may be worth noting in passing that Matania painted war in glowing color.
  10. In keeping with this, is the war poetry of Wilfred Owen and Seigfried Sassoon, both of whom fought in the trenches. Sassoon himself was a decorated hero who became progressively more disillusioned as the war progressed. After the war ended, he threw his medals in the sea. His friend Wilfred Owen did not survive the war. And this perhaps is the difference, that what Matania observed, they experienced. Perhaps we need both their words and his pictures to understand my grandfather's war.
  11. In this he was by no means alone. Here, for example, is Frank Earle Schoonover's depiction of Sergeant York. In October 1918, as a newly-promoted corporal, Alvin York was one of a group of seventeen soldiers assigned to infiltrate German lines and silence a machine gun position. After the American patrol had captured a large group of enemy soldiers, German small arms fire killed six Americans and wounded three. York was the highest ranking of those still able to fight, so he took charge. While his men guarded the prisoners, York attacked the machine gun position, killing several German soldiers with his rifle before running out of ammunition. Six German soldiers charged him with bayonets, and York drew his pistol and killed all of them. The German officer responsible for the machine gun position had emptied his pistol while firing at York but failed to hit him. This officer then offered to surrender and York accepted. York and his men marched back to their unit's command post with more than 130 prisoners. By all accounts, York was a humble man and a genuine hero who ardently refused the limelight.
  12. It is this latter point regarding morale that I think sheds light on Matania's depictions of the battlefields.
  13. The Battle of the Somme was an Anglo-French offensive of July to November 1916. The opening day of the offensive (1 July 1916) was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army, suffering 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead. The entire Somme offensive cost the British Army some 420,000 casualties. The French suffered another estimated 200,000 casualties and the Germans an estimated 500,000. Gun fire wasn't the only factor taking lives; the diseases that emerged in the trenches were a major killer on both sides. The living conditions made it so that countless diseases and infections occurred, such as trench foot, shell shock, blindness/burns from mustard gas, lice, trench fever, cooties (body lice) and the ‘Spanish Flu’, so-called because reports of a flu epidemic among the soldiers was censored to maintain morale, while journalists were free to report on it's impact in neutral Spain.
  14. When I was ten or eleven, I asked my grandfather if he fought in the Great War. He told me that he had participated in many battles in the trenches, and had survived the Battle of the Somme, which he singled out as the worst of all, and far from describing heroic deeds, he talked about the endless suffering - and the mud. I asked him how he'd survived where so many others had died, and he said there was no particular reason. Many of his friends had died, he'd just been lucky.
  15. The anguish of the earth absolves our eyes Till beauty shines in all that we can see. War is our scourge; yet war has made us wise, And, fighting for our freedom, we are free. Horror of wounds and anger at the foe, And loss of things desired; all these must pass. We are the happy legion, for we know Time’s but a golden wind that shakes the grass. There was an hour when we were loth to part From life we longed to share no less than others. Now, having claimed this heritage of heart, What need we more, my comrades and my brothers? Seigfried Sassoon
  16. My pleasure - I continue to edumacate myself in the process! It is an interesting transition from father to son - Fortunino seems less theatrical, more cinematic...
  17. I'll upload many more of Matania's spectacular images tomorrow!
  18. During WW II, many of his paintings and drawings were destroyed when his studio was bombed in the Blitz. He was so prolific, however, that many examples of his art still survive. Matania's illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pirates of Venus (1933) and Lost on Venus (1933-34) compared favorably to the best in the field, and many modern day artists were likely inspired by Matania's sensuous style of illustrating. This may look familiar even if you've never seen it.
  19. In his studio he maintained an enormous collection of artifacts to aid him in his work. He rarely made preliminary sketches, preferring to begin an elaborate illustration without previous preparation. It was as if he had an exact mental photograph of the art before he began to paint or draw. His reputation was such that he was visited in his studio in London by Annigoni, Russell Flint, and John Singer Sargent, and his work is collected and admired by many of today's greatest artists and illustrators.
  20. He was an expert at historical scenes from all periods of history and his Ancient Roman and classical illustrations are particularly admired and collected.
  21. He contributed regularly to the English publication Britannia and Eve -stories of kings and queens, conquerors, adventurers, famous women of history, etc, and The Passing Show, where his Edgar Rice Burroughs and When Worlds Collide illustrations appeared. His work has been used in numerous magazines and books such as Look & Learn, London Life and others.
  22. After the war he specialized in illustrating historical and ceremonial events. He was equally adept at depicting the life of ordinary people, especially crowds in the streets of London. His drawings were immensely popular, appearing in all the principal magazines and quality newspapers in Europe and America.
  23. It would also be fair to say, that his work depicted war as a heroic endeavor, just as his other work tended to idealize [or sentimentalize] the classical and contemporary worlds.