Wednesday 4 January 2017

Frank Bellamy and Fortunino Matania

I received a lovely Christmas present (you know who you are!) - well, two actually! Now I need to say, this is my blog and I always thought I'd stick to the precept it was about Bellamy and his work. Today none appears here...but bear with me.....

Dez Skinn/ Dave Gibbons asked Bellamy:
Did you find they influenced you at all? Did you copy any of the illustrations? 
FB: No. I never used to do any copying. But this is a tough one. I’ve often been asked if people have influenced me. I find it difficult to sort out the difference between people who influence me or impress me with their work. One person who did impress me was Fortunino Matania, an artist who specialised in highly detailed work on Greece, Ancient Egypt and World War One. I have great admiration for him.(Taken from Fantasy Advertiser vol. 3:50 November 1973)

Drawing from history - The forgotten art of Fortunino Matania
I don't think I've sat down and read in one sitting an art book this size for a long time! I made sure the sunlight was streaming through the window -art books are so much better in sunlight, I feel - and made a cup of coffee (for me and my patient wife!) and took the plunge. Before we go any further, don't take my word for it, have a long extended peek thanks to the publisher.

Three editions of materials were released shortly before Christmas and I love what Geoff West and team have done here. Previous limited hardbacks and slipcases (Heros the Spartan for example) have been criticised for being expensive. They certainly are not as cheap as some of the books produced by American publishers but they have a much bigger target audience than BookPalace, who produce some very specialist limited run books. It's obviously done for the love of well-produced books.

But this time you can own the quality in paperback form - except cunningly the paperback "The Art of Fortunino Matania: catalogue of original art and prints" has over 250 images (including some 125 illustrations not featured in our art book Drawing from History: The Forgotten Art of Fortunino Matania)". It's not a paperback copy of the 'art book' above - just to be clear! But the price makes it a lot more accessible to a lot more people

The Art of Fortunino Matania: catalogue of original art and prints
I knew who Matania was due to one Mr. Frank Bellamy and his correspondence with the artist when Matania was based in NW6.

23rd October 1959.

104 Priory Road, London NW6

Dear Mr Bellamy,

Many thanks for your letter of the 19th and your kind appreciation of my work.
When similar letters are coming from these young artists determined to follow this terribly exacting profession called illustration, I feel greatly compensated by the hope of having been indirectly of some help to them.
Since the very beginning of my long career, my highest ambition has been to produce work, possibly educational, both for its artistic merit and accuracy of detail.
It is quite true that I have taken any amount of trouble and worked hard but it is also true that the spontaneous expression of the public has [incessantly?] rewarded me more than I deserve.
If you would like to visit my studio at the above address, ring me up, I should be very pleased to make your personal acquaintance.

Sincerely yours,

F Matania.

Bellamy also received one of the famous Matania Christmas cards - see the books mentioned here for more details. The journey from Morden, South London to West Hampstead would only be 45 minutes by Underground Tube and we know they did actually meet because in a speech Bellamy gave to the Kettering District Art Society, when opening the 15 October 1960 exhibition, he stated:

"I once talked to Fortunino Matania in his studio and this question of detail came up and he said as far as he was concerned, out of every million readers who saw your work, probably one person happened to notice that it was correct so for the sake of that one reader it was worthwhile."
Drawing from History: The Forgotten Art of Fortunino Matania (Slipcased Edition, signed)
Further information on Matania on the Internet:

You can see the British Pathé film of Matania in his studio and Ball State University have scanned the classsic Matania poster, "Good-bye old man", which according to Gosling sold was still being offered as a print for sale well into the 1930s. There's a zoomable version of "Saving Amiens" in the Trove collections - click on the link that says "Zoomable". Rather a dubious honour but a certain Mr. Hitler owned some Matania art apparantly

In looking around the Internet for Matania related stuff, I tripped over the fact he'd illustrated a series written by H. V. Morton called "Women of the Bible" -thanks to Australia's brilliant Trove. What was even more interesting, as I do not think the original book was illustrated, is that in the online newspaper series, Morton has 'conversations' with Matania - here's the one from Eve:
Artists have been more generous to Eve than writers. They have always interpreted her in the terms of their most attractive models.
Nothing, I feel sure, would convince Mr. Matania that Eve was short, fat, or myopic, that she was covered with hair, or was bowlegged.
Our conception of Eve is therefore woman idealised; and in this tribute the artists of the world have atoned for all the bitter things which the writers of the world have said about the first woman.

And a second one (#12: The Witch of Endor):
When my telephone bell rang the other day Mr.Matania's voice asked:
"What is your idea of the Witch of Endor ?"
"Have you ever been to a spiritualist seance?" I asked.
"And what did the medium look like?"
"She was a very ordinary woman."
"That is my idea of the Witch of Endor."
"I agree with you," he replied.
"You know, of course, that every artist who has ever drawn the Witch of Endor has pictured her like one of Macbeth's witches: an old, smoke-dried hag, toothless and with white hair, crouching over a fire while spirits hover in the air and bats fly round about. That is the conventional picture."

"I know it is. But I would like to see a Witch of Endor who might have had a 'familiar spirit' in South Norwood."

Obituary from Times 11 Feb 1963 p14
Oh, and if you still haven't got copies of King Arthur, Robin Hood and "The story of World War One" head over to Book Palace for their special offer - there, that's Bellamy related!

Title: Drawing from History: The Forgotten Art of Fortunino Matania
Author: Lucinda Gosling; foreword by James Gurney
Artist: Fortunino Matania
Publisher: Book Palace Books, October 2016 First Edition
Number of pages: 340
Format: Hard Cover; Part Colour illustrations
Size: 10" x 13" (250mm x 330mm)
ISBN: 9781907081309
Price: £60.00
Notes: Limited print run of 1,000 with 250 illustrations
Title: The Art of Fortunino Matania: catalogue of original art and prints
Artist: Fortunino Matania
Publisher: Book Palace Books, October 2016 First Edition
Number of pages: 96
Format: Soft Cover; Part Colour illustrations
Size: 9" x 11" (216mm x 280mm)
ISBN: 9781907081323
Price: £20.00
Notes: Features over 250 illustrations of original art and prints, all available for sale from Some 125 of the illustrations herein were omitted from the art book (above)
SOLD OUT (December 2016)
Title:  Drawing from History: The Forgotten Art of Fortunino Matania (Ultra Slipcased Edition) (Signed)
Author: Lucinda Gosling; foreword by James Gurney
Artist: Fortunino Matania
Publisher: Book Palace Books, October 2016 First Edition
Number of pages: 342
Format: Hard Cover; Part Colour illustrations
Size: 10" x 13" (250mm x 330mm)
ISBN: 9781907081385
Price: £175.00
Notes: This slipcased edition is limited to 100 copies of which only 60 copies are for sale to the public. Signed by the author, Lucinda Gosling; slipcased with gold blocked pages, an additional tipped-in Plate and 2 Matania prints not available elsewhere. - see copies of them here

Frank Bellamy and Man about Town

I recently read the excellent book produced by a fellow blogger, A history of British magazine design by Anthony Quinn, otherwise known as the more-friendly Tony, on his blog, MagForum As a result I wrote to him about one entry (there are two mentions!) of Frank Bellamy. Instead of just replying he blogged it and has given me permission to reproduce it below. Thanks Tony!

Reproduced with permission from MagForum:

Man about town #1
When it comes to legendary illustrators, the names don’t come much bigger than Frank Bellamy. He’s associated in people’s minds with Dan Dare and The Eagle, but produced so many other strips, such as ‘Thunderbirds’ in TV 21 and ‘Garth’ in the Daily Mirror. His dramatic style also attracted cover commissions from the likes of the Radio Times and the Sunday Times Magazine. These are being brilliantly documented by and

The Frank Bellamy profile from the 1953 first issue of Man About Town

Another publication that Bellamy worked on is Man About Town, described in my book, British Magazine Design. Bellamy did the first issue cover in 1953 with its dapper chap stickman. He has a profile on p171 of the magazine on its contributors’ page. The Cutter & Tailor blog has scanned all Man About Town‘s first issue pages and put them online.


Tony also mentioned that the 'stick man' Bellamy drew was reprinted in Man About Town 1955 (Spring and Autumn) editions.

The interesting thing is that I have seen this cutting before (not the cover) when Nancy kindly loaned some letters, correspondence and cuttings to me. The reverse didn't give me a lot of clues except it was an advert for some clothing retailer in Gerrards Cross. The internal date confirms that David Bellamy, the Bellamy's only child (and no, not the naturalist!) was 8 at the time and therefore I knew it was cutting from 1953 and didn't hold a lot of hope of ever finding the original. But here we are in 2017 and it's turned up!

Where was Bellamy in 1953? He'd been with Norfolk Studios and working on advertising and also the well-known Commando Gibbs (toothpaste) adverts. He began as a freelancer with International Artists representing him in August 1953 and I'm sure his regular work -just started - on Mickey Mouse Weekly and having Man about town accept his work in their Spring 1953 first issue, must have bolstered his confidence.

The Cutter and Tailor forum (mentioned in Tony's article appears to have been created by 'Sator' of Sydney, Australia whom I'd love to thank for scanning so many pages from the first issue. For completeness sake I have added the whole page of profiles and contents page below

Man about town #1 p.39

Man about Town #1 p.171
So that was a nice start to 2017!

Now let's talk about Tony's brilliant book A history of British magazine design. He told me "The book was 7 years in the making" and I fear headlines on the day I publish a biography of Bellamy ("40 years in the making due to laziness!"), but fully understand, how long individual pages from magazines would take to find. His choices of what to show us are really interesting and give a great flavour of what magazines are all about. I have stored the information on the "Bellamy magazines" like Lilliput, Home Notes etc. and loved reading tit-bits (no pun intended) about these magazines. The book was designed by Joe Ewart who is a former Art Editor of NME

Take a look at 31 pages of the book here: Issuu
i-D did a nice feature on the launch here
The V&A, who published the book, interviewed Tony here
magCulture's overview here
and finally....
The Creative Review reviewed the book and gave Tony the chance to respond. Whose side do I come down on? Well, Tony's, of course! Seriously, to do any survey this large of magazines in the UK will fall down by everyone's criteria. However, I am so pleased to see such breadth represented as one gets a real sense of the creativity in the industry from the start and the exposure to multiple titles and styles just enhances this.

Once again, many thanks go to Tony for bringing one more Bellamy artwork to light