Fortunino Matania

Michael Angelo: original artwork by Fortunino Matania for Britannia & Eve. Image and text courtesy of The Bookpalace.

Fortunino Matania (1881 - 1963) was not a comic artist per se, although his artwork has appeared in numerous periodicals especially Look & Learn.

Born in Naples in 1881, Fortunino Matania trained at his father's studio and illustrated his first book at the age of 14. He studied in Paris, Milan and London, where he worked on The Graphic. He returned to Italy at the age of 22 for military service in the Bersaglieri. He then returned to London where he joined the staff of The Sphere. With the outbreak of WW1 he became a war artist and spent nearly five years at the front drawing hundreds of sketches. His work was admired by military experts and critics alike for his technical accomplishment and scrupulous accuracy. His war art features in virtually every history or encyclopaedia of WW1 ever produced.

At the end of WW1 Matania illustrated numerous ceremonies in London, including the coronation of Edward VII. During the first half of the 20th century he literally illustrated history as it happened. He was made a Chevalier of the Crown of Italy, and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and The Royal Institute of Art.

In his studio he maintained an enormous collection of artefacts 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 a 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.

He was an expert at historical scenes from all periods of history and his Ancient Roman and classical illustrations are particularly admired and collected. During WW2, 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.

His pictures were published every week in Illustrazione Italiana from 1895 - 1902, in The Graphic from 1901 - 1904, and in The Sphere from 1904 to 1963. He also contributed regularly to Britannia & Eve, and The Passing Show, where his Edgar Rice Burroughs illustrations appeared amongst others. His work has been used in numerous magazines and books such as Look & Learn, Billy the Kid Book of Picture Stories (1958 & 1959), London Life and many others.


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Last updated :
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