Thursday 21 January 2010

The Miracles of Matania Part 2 - The War Paintings

In 1902, at the age of twenty one, Fortunino Matania whose reputation as an illustrator was now international, was invited to provide an illustration of the coronation of King Edward VII. By now Matania was a well and truly seasoned illustrator having worked for the last seven years for magazines both in his native Italy and latterly France and was more than ready for the task that awaited him.

Which was a good thing as the coronation itself could only be observed by the artist, not only was the presence of cameras to be deemed an act of high sacrilege, but also the sight of an artist feverishly scribbling onto a notebook was not about to be tolerated. Matania's brief was simple he could go and observe the event and then in the time remaining before that week's edition of The London Graphic went to press, rush back to his studio and create the artwork.

Stressful or what?

Needless to say the resultant painting was a huge success and Matania's place in coverage of all things Royal was assured as was his place as a mainstay of the UK mass circulation magazines such as The Sphere for whom he commenced work in 1904.

It was The Sphere that commissioned Matania to be one of their war artists when war broke out in August of 1914 and carrying on from Tuesday's post here's some more samples of his astonishing virtuosity.

My thanks to The Canadian War Museum for providing the two super pictures of soldiers manning a field gun and the Canadian's assault on a sugar factory from behind a boiler, these are amongst the best repros out there on the internet. The last two images are from my own collection and are part of a superb series of limited edition lithographs that the artist signed and still come up in dealer's inventories from time to time.


  1. These are stunning images - the more so for knowing now the incredible way that Matania built up a composition.

  2. They are truly amazing aren't they Dave? I'm really looking forward to seeing what Geoff West and Stuart Williams have unearthed in their forthcoming book on Matania. I know that they've both been terrier like on the trail of his paintings for years and the delay with the publication of this book has quite simply been down to the fact that they've uncovered so much stunning material since first flagging up this book.

  3. Hi, Matania art is amazing! By the way is the book done - could not find it? thanks