Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

WW1 Illustrations of Fortunino Matania



A number of iconic paintings and illustrations I have viewed over the years have  included the Last Absolution of the Munsters, Good by Old Man, and L Battery RHA at Nery. It was when I was looking at war artists depicting the Gunners during WW1 that I realised that they were all the work of Fortunino Matania.

Delving into Fortunino Matania revealed that his work included other areas where I have come across his work including illustrating the sinking of the Titanic pre war, and travel posters post war. Other interesting illustrations include depicting the Unkown Warrior Service in Westminster Abbey, and the illustrating the Royal Family.



Chevalier Fortunino Matania (16 April 1881 – 8 February 1963) was an Italian artist noted for his realistic portrayal of World War I trench warfare.

Fortunino Matania was born in Naples in. 1881 the son of an artist. He studied art at his father's studio, exhibiting at the Naples Academy at the age of 11. He helped his father produce illustrations for books and magazines.  This work lead to him working for the Italian periodical L'Illustrazione Italiania between 1895 and 1902. He then worked in Paris for the magazine Illustration, before moving to London in 1904 to join the staff of The Graphic. 

After three years in England he had to go back to Italy to do his national military service. After completing his military duties Matania returned to England where he was employed by The Sphere. Work included illustrations of the sinking of the RMS 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.

Photography during the war was still in its infancy and actual photographs of combat was rare. The work of the war artist was therefore vital in depicting the events realistically. One of Matania's work is well know to Gunners, the actions of L Battery RHA at Nery 1st September 1914 which resulted in the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Captain Edward Bradbury, Battery Sergeant-Major George Dorrell and Sergeant David Nelson.


During the war Fortunino Matania's work was published in The Sphere, an illustrated news paper which was published weekly. 


With his Italian origins it is not surprising that Matania's work also included the Italian Front.


Looking at Fortunino Matania's work I find the detail exquisite. An example is a drawing published in 1916 in the Tatler and Sphere following a visit by Matania to a British Battery. 

With the field guns on the Western Front.

The Section Commander struggling to hear an order as other guns fire, his map frustratingly unfurling . The Detachment Commander raises his hand " hang on lads". The gunners on the gun look on awaiting orders. The layer continues on his sights. An ammo number prepares the next round. 


Fortunino Matania's work featuring the Royal Artillery



Edited by ianjonesncl


Recommended Comments

Probably my favourite WW1 war artist. I recommend Saving Amiens


There is considerable confusion as to who owns the copyright of his works, the newspapers that printed his drawings or his estate. At the time, the employment contract/commission of an artist typically passed copyright in perpetuity to the publisher at the time. Matania was sufficiently acclaimed at this period, that the conditions of his contract may have only passed a restricted right to the publisher with the actual full rights reverting back to the artist after a nominated period.

When copyright was life of author +50 years this was OK as his works would have passed into public domain 1 January 2014. Under USA pressure, many countries have extended copyright to life of author +70 years, so his works will not enter public domain until 2034.

Certainly you can reprint and be dammed, but that is a potentially very costly exercise. I have no relationship to the commercial reprinter in the link and have no knowledge whether their prints are authorised by the copyright owner. I am not prepared to make comment one way or the other.

Link to comment
On 28/08/2022 at 08:12, Chasemuseum said:

Probably my favourite WW1 war artist.

I think he has emerged as mine favourite as well. I do find the detail exquisite. 

I have admired is work for years with out knowing the artist of his background. 




Link to comment

Posted (edited)

Thanks for posting Ian, I too enjoy his works.  Despite the potential for it to be cloyingly sentimental, I think that he somehow, with his unique style and eye for detail, avoided that trap with my own favourite, Goodbye Old Boy.  He was certainly one of a kind I think.

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...