Tales from the Island of Serendip
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Matania was a child prodigy, with a photographic memory and the ability to reproduce startlingly real scenes.

 

MataniaSP2May14-G.jpg

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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.

MataniaSP18Jul14-G.jpg

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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. 

matania_Titanic.jpg

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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

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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.

12 La Esfera 183 30.06.1917.jpg

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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.

MataniaSP15Aug14a-G.jpg

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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.

Matania_spread4-L.jpg

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He was an expert at historical scenes from all periods of history and his Ancient Roman and classical illustrations are particularly admired and collected.

2008_CSK_05406_0106_000().jpg

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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.

MataniaSar-G.jpg

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10 hours ago, Flex Mentallo said:

Born in Naples in 1881, Matania's early training in art came from his father, who was also an artist. His father, Eduardo's pictures were often anecdotal depictions of contemporary scenes, and clearly influenced much of his son's later work.

Eduardo_Matania_Beim_Pfandleiher_1870s.jpg

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The son sure can draw, but as soon as I saw his father's work here I thought William Hogarth as the poses, and especially the caricature-like faces, echo Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, A Harlot's Progress, Gin Lane etc.

I freely admit I had not seen works by either Matania before. Thanks for continuing to edumacate me.

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8 hours ago, Duffman_Comics said:

Thanks for continuing to edumacate me.

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...

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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

2014_CSK_05289_0008_000(fortunino_matania_ri_soldiers_in_woodland_near_ypres_marching_along_re).jpg

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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.

336ea9009e090644dca201860e1a8b6e.jpg

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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.

d5831166a.jpg

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It is this latter point regarding morale that I think sheds light on Matania's depictions of the battlefields.

05 Givenchy - Historia de las Naciones v.4-447.jpg

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