Matania was born in Naples, the son of Eduardo Matania – also an artist. At 14 Matania was employed to produce weekly illustrations for the Italian magazine L’Illustrazione Italianaia. In 1902 his illustrations of the Coronation of Edward VII were published in The Graphic and he continued to work on the major royal events until the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth half a century later in 1953.
Following a period as illustrator for The Sphere he became a war artist at the outbreak of the First World War and his images of trench warfare were highly regarded as graphic and realistic images.
Following the war he took on various commercial commissions, including posters for LNER. His two posters of Southport and one of Blackpool are arguably the best British railway posters, and of the three the present work is the most highly regarded.
From 1929, when the women’s magazine Britannia and Eve was launched, he began painting elaborate scenes from history. His London studio equipped with reproduction Roman furniture he painted detailed classical scenes, always including a voluptuous nude or two as he said “The public demanded it” in their magazine.
There is a copy of this poster in the V&A.
Southport was a popular British seaside resort in the days before cheap airline travel. In the early 1920s the town planned and built a large lido with a “Sea Bathing Lake”. Following its completion, LNER commissioned Matania to produce this spectacular poster. Perhaps Southport has been portrayed in a more glamorous fashion, but it seems unlikely! Photographs of the lake may be seen by clicking here. This is the first version of the poster, in the later version a lantern stands on top of the dome.