Flex Mentallo

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  1. 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.


  2. 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


  3. 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.


  4. 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.


  5. 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.


  6. With the outbreak of World War I he became a war artist and spent nearly five years at the front drawing hundreds of sketches, which he would later translate into photo-realistic, large sized pictures for the leading periodicals. His work was admired by military experts and critics alike for his technical accomplishment and scrupulous accuracy.

    02 Scene from the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.jpg

  7. Matania was an expert at depicting historical scenes from all periods of history, as well as specific, current news events, with startling realism and precision for the time. His illustrations for The Sphere depicting the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912 have been cited as an early exemplar. This image, "Women and Children First" transfixed the public when it appeared in 1912. 


  8. Fortunino illustrated his first book at the age of fourteen, and from about that age, his pictures were published every week in Illustrazione Italiana [1895-1902]. Moving to London, he worked for The Graphic [1901-1904]. After returning to Italy for military service he came back to London at the age of twenty-four and joined the staff of The Sphere, and spent the rest of his life in England.


  9. He was invited to accompany King George V and Queen Mary to India when they were installed as King-Emperor and Queen-Empress at the Delhi Durbar of 1911. Matania's resourcefulness on such occasions was also in a league unto itself. Such was the multitude of troops and onlookers at the event that there was little space allocated to the press. The majority of them were obliged to observe the proceedings through binoculars as the distant dignitaries shimmered and eddied into the searing heat. Matania, who had mapped out his preparatory work at the dress rehearsal, nevertheless wanted to get as close to the action as possible and managed to secure a position at the foot of the steps leading up to the Royal thrones. To ensure he remained as unobtrusive as possible, he had secured himself an Army uniform, remained rigidly at attention as he committed the whole scene in all its pomp and splendour to his photographic memory.

    Peter Richardson


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