On Saturday 2 October 2021, James Gordon-Cumming handed over the monochrome painting 'A field of great sorrow and of greater glory: The battle ground of Ypres' to the In Flanders Fields Museum.
The painting, which measures 37.5 x 54 cm, shows a group of well-to-do British 'pilgrims' on the market square of Ypres with the majestic ruins of the Cloth Hall in the background. Four young ladies - war widows? - and two older men are accompanied by a British officer who points out something in the ruins. One of the ladies is clearly looking for souvenirs in the rubble.
This exceptional work by the Italian illustrator Fortunino Matania (1881-1963), dating from 1919, was bought at auction in the United Kingdom in May 2021 with the explicit intention of donating it to the In Flanders Fields Museum. It is very special that the museum can enjoy such a form of generous patronage.
The fact that the painting was done in black and white with grey shades is because Matania made illustrations for the press. This work was also published: on 20 September 1919 it appeared as a 'doublespread' on pages 276-7 of the popular illustrated magazine The Sphere.
During the First World War Fortunino Matania was an extremely successful illustrator. His heroic drawings in an academic and realistic style appealed to a wide audience and made him a sought-after press artist. Matania also went to the front several times, to Ypres among other places, to record his impressions on the spot. Several of his works became icons, such as 'Goodbye, old man' on which a British soldier says goodbye to his dying horse (and which was the inspiration for the 58th (London) Division Memorial in Chipilly in the Somme) or the painting The Green Howards at the Kruiseecke Crossroads from 1925.
For In Flanders Fields Museum, it is the first work of this popular illustrator from the First World War.
Page made by Stad Ieper.