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Chevalier Fortunino Matania Italian 1881 - 1963 Southport Oil on canvas, signed lower right Image size:30 x 47 ½ inches Art Deco Style Frame Provenance Comissioned by LMS 1937 Chevalier Fortunino Matania (16 April 1881 – 8 February 1963) was an Italian artist noted for his realistic portrayal of World War I trench warfare and of a wide range of historical subjects. Fortunino Matania was born in Naples, the son of artist Eduardo Matania. He studied at his father’s studio, designing a soap advertisement at the age of nine and exhibiting his first work at Naples Academy at eleven. By the age of fourteen 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. 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. 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. 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 Magazine, Nash's, Printer's Pie and others. When Britannia and Eve was launched in 1929, Matania became one of its first contributors. For nineteen years, he wrote and illustrated historical stories for the magazine. His talents made him a popular illustrator for advertising, posters and catalogues, working for LNER (designing posters for Southport and Blackpool), Ovaltine, Burberry's (the sporting outfitters) and many others. Matania was also recommended 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. The seaside resort of Southport in Merseyside has been a hugely popular tourist destination since the Victorian era. Its pier, a grade II listed structure, is the second longest in Britain. Napoléon III famously lived in exile in the town before returning to France, where his re-design of the Parisian boulevards was reportedly inspired by Lord Street. Matania was commissioned to paint images of Southport to promote the town. This stunning painting depicts an opulent party in the foreground of the towns ‘Venetian Bridge’, probably attended by members of the local influential theatrical society.
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