Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wartime Illustrator Fortunio Matania
From the Collection of Tony Langley

Click on Image to Expand

Fortunino Matania in The Sphere,
26 May 1917

Fortunino Matania (1881-1963) is one of the greatest wartime realist illustrators — certainly of the Great War, maybe others as well. His imagery has contributed to the way millions of people viewed the war while it was being fought. He knew how to distill events into single scenes while still telling a narrative or presenting typical occurrences at the front, and all this in a realistic style that has often been mistaken at first viewing for a real photograph.

He was an Italian-born artist who ended up working before and during the Great War for the most prestigious British weekly illustrated news magazines such as The Sphere. His images were sold worldwide to other publications and were later also used as illustrative material for postwar books and volumes. After the war he became known for being one of several artists who helped create a specific science fiction and sword and fantasy look for characters by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He was also very active in producing artwork that presented a view of classical antiquity that was somewhat reminiscent of the great works by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema but was nevertheless more suited to the tastes of an average reader of novels or pulp fiction stories.

A most prolific and competent illustrator during his long career, Matania is all but forgotten at present. It is rare to find full-color wartime illustrations by Matania. Most of his work was reproduced in magazines or as prints in black, white, and grey tone. This particular two-page illustration comes from a special edition of The Sphere that contained several other full-color illustrations by Matania and other artists working for this magazine.  


  1. I love his "The Last General Absolution of the Munster Fusiliers at Rue du Bois".

  2. Another great one is his "Good Bye Old Man" print of a dying artillery horse. I should have thought of that one first, as I have a print of it up on my office wall.