“Capture of the Sugar Refinery” by Fortunino Matania

The Canadian Capture of the Sugar Refinery, Courcelette, Somme, France, September 15, 1916.

The Canadian Capture of the Sugar Refinery, Courcelette, Somme, France, September 15, 1916.

Authenticity, Accuracy in the Depiction of the Great War

Today we reflect upon an event of a 100 years ago when the Canadian Expeditionary took part in its first major action of the Somme campaign during the Battle of Flers-Courclette. The Capture of the Sugar Refinery, September 15, 1916, was interpreted by Italian war artist Fortunino Matania known for his enduring passion for authenticity and accuracy in his portrayals of the Great War experience. The lithograph was published in The Sphere, November 11, 1916 and has become one of the iconic depictions of Canadian troops in battle.

The artist Fortunino Matania

The artist Fortunino Matania 1881 – 1963.

Born in Naples, Italy in 1881, Fortunino Matania was taught by his artist father whose skilled hand and eyes and ability to teach enabled Fortunino to become a talented artist at a very young age. Subsequently choosing a career as an illustrator of books and magazines in 1901 Matania commenced work, in Paris, for the Illustration Francaise and later joined the staff of The Graphic, eventually moving on to The Sphere. In 1914 Matania became a war artist and his emotive Great War work is well known for its graphic, detailed and highly realistic depictions of the soldier experience. Some of his other familiar works include, The Last General Absolution of the Munsters and Goodbye, Old Man. 

The Last General Absolution of the Munster Fusiliers at Rue du Bois

The Last General Absolution of the Munster Fusiliers at Rue du Bois. The original painting was destroyed in the bombing of London during the Second World War.


About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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