Fortunino Matania (1881 - 1963)

Reception at India Office on the King’s Birthday, June 25th 1912


SKU: 6664
Signed, inscribed to reverse with titel and extensive notes to the printer
Pencil, black chalk, pen and black ink and grey wash heightened with white, on board; 
14 x 21 in. (36 x 53.3 cm.)

Height – 36cm
Width – 53.3cm

1 in stock


From the archives of the illustrated London News; Christies 7.10,.2014, lot 20

In 1904, Matania joined the staff of The Sphere where some of his most famous work was to appear, including his illustrations of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.   His reputation was further enhanced by WW1 through which he became  acclaimed for his graphic and realistic images of trench warfare.

IN 1912 the Royal Flying Corps was established.  The RMS Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg. Over 1500 crew and passengers died.

The Blue Rider Almanac was  published in Munich, containing reproductions of more than 140 multi-ethnic artworks, articles on the visual arts and music and Vasilly Kandinsky’s experimental theater composition The Yellow Sound.

Austrian writer Frida Strindberg opens The Cave of the Golden Calf, a London nightclub decorated by Spencer Gore, Wyndham Lewis, Charles Ginner and Jacob Epstein with its motif by Eric Gill; it becomes a haunt of Futurists.

In Paris, Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger publish the first major treatise on Cubism, Du “Cubisme”, followed by André Salmon’s La jeune peinture fran√ßaise including Histoire anecdotique du cubisme.

Exhibition of Italian Futurism transfers from Paris to the Sackville Gallery in London, organised by Robert René Meyer-Sée.

Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition organized by Roger Fry in London.


Albert Gleizes, 1912, l’Homme au Balcon, 

Giacomo Balla – Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash

Vanessa Bell – Three portraits of her sister Virginia Woolf

George Bellows – Men of the Docks

David Bomberg – Vision of Ezekiel

Pierre Bonnard – St Tropez, Pier

John Currie – Some Later Primitives and Madame Tisceron

Marcel Duchamp – Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2

Roger Fry – Portrait of Edith Sitwell

Wyndham Lewis – Smiling Woman Ascending a Stair

Amedeo Modigliani – Tête (sculpture)

Piet Mondrian – Gray Tree

William Orpen – Portrait of Gardenia St. George With Riding Crop

Pablo Picasso –Still Life with Chair Caning

Stanley Spencer – The Nativity

IN 1912 Jackson Pollock, (d.1956) Conroy Maddox, (d. 2005) and Keith Vaughan,  (d.1977) were born.

Elizabeth Forbes,  (born 1859); and Lawrence Alma-Tadema,  (born 1836) died

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Fortunino Matania
1881 - 1963

Fortunino Matania was an Italian artist noted for his realistic portrayal of World War I trench warfare and of a wide range of historical subjects.

Born in Naples, the son of artist Eduoardo Matania, Fortunino Matania studied at his father’s studio, designing a soap advertisement at the age of 9 and exhibiting his first work at Naples Academy at 11. By the age of 14 he was helping his father produce illustrations for books and magazines. His talent was recognised by the editor of the Italian periodical L’Illustrazione Italiania and Matania produced weekly illustrations for the magazine between 1895 and 1902.
At the age of 20, Matania began working in Paris for Illustration Francaise and, in 1902, was invited to London to cover the Coronation of Edward VII for The Graphic. Matania would subsequently cover every major event ‘ marriage, christening, funeral and Coronation ‘ of British royalty up to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953.
In 1904, Matania joined the staff of The Sphere where some of his most famous work was to appear, including his illustrations of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Around 1906 to 1910 he painted the life in the lobby of the Hotel Excelsior in Rome.
The Last General Absolution of the Munsters at Rue du Bois by Matania depicting the regiment on the eve of the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915
At the outbreak of the First World War, Matania became a war artist and was acclaimed for his graphic and realistic images of trench warfare. His painting for the Blue Cross entitled Goodbye, Old Man, showing a British soldier saying farewell to his dying horse, is a fine example of his emotive work. His painting of the Green Howards including Henry Tandey is a central part of a famous story.
But it was after the war, when he switched to scenes of ancient high life for the British woman’s magazine, Britannia and Eve, that Matania found his real career. He filled his London studio with reproductions of Roman furniture, pored over history books for suitably lively subjects. Then, with the help of models and statues, he began to paint such subjects as Samson & Delilah, the bacchanalian roisters of ancient Rome, and even early American Indian maidens – all with the same careful respect for accuracy and detail he had used in his news assignments.
Generally he managed to include one or two voluptuous nudes in each picture. “The public demanded it,” says Matania. “If there was no nude, then the editor or I would get a shower of letters from readers asking politely why not.” He was a standard in Britannia and Eve for 19 years.
Matania exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, in 1917 he was elected a member of the latter. From 1908 and his work appearing in most of the principal magazines in Britain and America, including Illustrated London News, London Magazine, Nash’s, Printer’s Pie and others. When Britannia and Eve was launched in 1929, Matania became one of its first contributors. For 19 years, he wrote and illustrated historical stories for the magazine. His talents made him a popular illustrator for advertising, posters and catalogues, working for Ovaltine, Burberry’s (the sporting outfitters) and many others. Matania was also recommented to Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille and produced a number of paintings of Rome and Egypt from which authentic designs could be made for the movie The Ten Commandments.
Towards the end of his life, Matania illustrated features for the educational weekly Look and Learn and was working on the series A Pageant of Kings at the time of his death.


Fortunino Matania (1881 - 1963)
Reception at India Office on the King’s Birthday, June 25th 1912