Anatomy of a Boat Deck Portrait


Encyclopedia Titanica

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Mar 28, 2002
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I've always thought this painting, by Sphere artist Fortunino Matania, was a mixture of fiction and wild imagination and so it is refreshing to discover that this scene is actually a 'reconstruction' of events at lifeboat 16 by a survivor who was there. Senan Molony has put forward names for some of the crew pictured. Can anyone attempt to name some of the passengers depicted? All in all, amazing stuff!

Cheers,

Boz
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Leave it to Senan to dig around in places nobody ever thought of to bring to light some surprisingly obscure information. Like Iain, I had tended to think of the painting of the boatdeck scene as being a tad fanciful, but given a closer look, I can see that this opinion may very well be in error.

I hope we can look forward to more from Senan in the future.
 
May 12, 2005
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This is one of the best pieces of "Titanic history" I've read here or anywhere in a long time.

I'm like Iain and Michael and always thought the Matania scene was an amalgam of various press accounts. It's great to learn that the artist actually conferred with a survivor to faithfully recreate this tense and emotional moment at boat 16, capturing some of the real-life players in the drama.

I was particularly interested to find that the young officer helping in the loading of the boat may be James Moody. If so, what a wonderful tribute to him this is. It is also bittersweet as I believe boat 16 was the one that, had fate been kinder, should have carried the young man to safety.

I, too, am intrigued about the identities of the passengers. Isn't Edwinna Troutt thought to have escaped in boat 16? Could she be the lady in the scarf, seated in the boat? Is the couple in the foreground the Allisons? What about the baker - is that Joughin?

Fascinating picture and fascinating article. Thanks to Senan for uncovering this true behind-the-scenes story!
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Senan announced privately last year that, with his second child due in 2003, he was 'retiring' from writing for a while on maritime subjects. How fortunate we are that although the enchanting Millie has been born, he has done nothing of the sort - and from conversations with him, it seems this article is merely the beginning of the new material we'll be seeing from this most talented and lyrical of maritime author/historians.

I've long admired the Sphere art as some of the most evocative work produced regarding that night - very much of its era and yet in many ways transcending it - and Sen's article confirms my views. The range of emotion and the touches of realism amidst the more stylised elements make it a very workmanlike narrative piece - it tells a story in an accessible way.

I'd never thought to identify the painting with Boat 16, but had often wondered about the image of one of the officers - not the one Sen identifies as Moody, but the other figure with a haunted, darting glance. I had assumed that these were generic images of officers and crew rather than specific portraits, but Sen's work suggests the former as a possibility.

Here's hoping we see more of Senan's high calibre work in the ET Gallery - he combines in rare degree both quality and quantity in his writing. He has the sense of narrative and the kernal of a story that comes as a journalist, the eye of an artist and the lyricism of a poet. With these, he combines the historian's unquenchable thirst to get to the whys and wherefores as well as the bare facts of events and human motivation, as well as the research skills to find the data itself.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Now that's what I call interesting. Quite apart from sighing wistfully over the man's sheer technical expertise, I was most forcibly struck by his passion for veracity. After all, he could have just done it mosly from imagination - that's only what everyone would have expected. Much quicker. He must have felt very strongly about truth. Wonder what media he'd be in now if he were young? Documentary director, maybe.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Most likely, Mr. Matania would be a modern day commercial artist/historian as Ken Marschall is, and just as good at it too. I've seen a number of period illustrations, (Who in the Titanic Community hasn't?) and precious few of them show anything like the same meticulous attention to detail that these two men do. Some are just plain sensational fantasy.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Pity he wasn't around when they were filming Titanic. Then he could have drawn the 'exquisite' portfolio than Winslet was forced to admire, and the rest of us wouldn't have been left stirring restlessly in the stalls muttering "No wonder they didn't think much of them in old Paree". JC draws marginally better than me, and I wouldn't let any of mine out of the house.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Monica, I believe that you and I are 'of an age', so you might remember the educational mag Look and Learn in the early 60s, and certainly the boy's comic Eagle? Matania's illustrations appeared in both, and still in the same style of meticulous attention to detail. I believe also he illustrated at least one of the Ladybird books, which were (and maybe still are?) an essential component of growing up in the UK!
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Hello, Bob.
"Of an age" .. how delicate! We're getting on, no question about it....
I don't remember Look & Learn very clearly, but my parents got me the Childrens' Newspaper - probably just as boring, to someone young. But, boy, do I remember the Eagle? However, I chiefly remember the Mekon, green face and all. And Harris Tweed. I don't think either of these could have been Matania. Perhaps he illustrated those tales of derring-do which were featured every week? WW2 pilots and such? Re Ladybird books, I bought those for my sons only (only...?) 15 years ago, and I shall go up in the attic to see if Matania had illustrated any of ours.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Matania artwork in the Eagle was used to illustrate true tales of historical adventure. I doubt that he ever did any of the strips, but he would have been up for the Mekon - earlier in his career he had illustrated Pirates of Venus for Edgar Rice Burroughs! I recently saw an Eagle annual from the '70s at an auction site, complete with recycled Matania artwork of a mediaeval battle on the cover. He also did great posters for the LMS railway in the 30s, advertising the exotic delights of Blackpool and Southport with no less enthusiasm than he showed when illustrating the great events of history or the antics of the Pirates of Venus.

PS: We are both in our prime, Monica! 'Of an age' simply means 'the same age'.
 
Mar 28, 2002
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Is that third-class passenger Frank Dwan I see in the crowd, watching the loading of lifeboat 16? He would be the one with the white beard? And I would guess Harry Faunthorpe would be somewhere in the crowd, having seen his 'wife' Elizabeth Wilkinson safely away.
 
Jun 4, 2003
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Hi! Are the ladies in the foreground and the one in the boat first class passengers? I assume they are from their clothing but could they possibly be identified? I guess not since I believe the whole image is a fine example of the action taking place then under horrible conditions and not merely a strict representation of an actual event ... Thanks!
 
B

Brian R Peterson

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I remembering seeing this picture either on the web or a book awhile ago and someone had identified the people in the painting, however I dont remember who was whom or who made the id's.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
May 12, 2005
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George asked: "Are the ladies in the foreground and the one in the boat first class passengers? I assume they are from their clothing but could they possibly be identified?"

I have always thought that the red-haired lady in the foreground was based on Lucile. There was a photo of Lucile, used often in the press at the time, in which she quite resembles this figure - even her head is lowered at the exact same angle as in the Matania illustration. It was well-known and much commented on that Lucile was a red-head and the painted lady's provocative, beribboned negligee and carelessly open peignoir are other potential clues.
 
Dec 6, 2000
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As near as I can recall, the Duff-Gordon's were never back by the stern boats, let alone #16 on the port side. So, if that is Lucile in the painting, then the painting is not as accurate as claimed. Besides which, #1 was loaded and lowered before #16.
 
May 12, 2005
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It's true the Duff Gordons were never at the aft boats and I also know boat 1 left before boat 16. I'm just saying the image resembles Lucile in countenance and pose, at least by comparison to a contemporary photo that was used frequently in the press between 1910 and '12. I can make a scan of it and send it to Phil H to post here or to a link so that people can see for themselves.

I don't think the accuracy of the painting is compromised by using an image of a familiar individual to anchor it, whether or not it is strictly representative of the individual's activities.
 
Jan 21, 2001
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I am skeptical of the supposed extreme accuracy of these depictions even if they were based on a survivor's description. Most survivors said the deck was dimly lit; Gracie said it was possible to recognize a familiar faces in one's immediate vicinity, but not much more than that.

Further, it's not possible for the constellation of Orion to be seen from Titanic during the sinking hours. Orion would have been visible only just after sunset, setting in the west sometime soon after dusk. By May 1st, only two weeks later, Orion sets with the sun, and is no longer visible until late August.

If the painter did intentionally put Orion in there, it doesn't belong there. Any field guide to the constellations will demonstrate this.

If the painter did not put Orion there but just random stars in the background, then Senan is making a mistake, or seeing what he wants to see there. In either case, it's tautological to say the painting is proof of its own accuracy.
 
Jan 21, 2001
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I want to clarify that my post above was not intended to denigrate Matania's painting. For example, he would have had access to papers, photos, articles from earlier in the spring documenting Titanic's maiden voyage from which to base the accuracy of the Boat Deck's layout; he would not have needed a survivor for those technical details. On the other hand, I have no doubt that the Sphere bent over backwards to make its coverage as accurate as it humanly could, and relied on as many eyewitnesses as possible.

I merely wish to warn of the danger of over-interpreting, or reading more into it than is there. When Senan writes:

"He has instead represented the actual constellations that were present in the sky that night as Titanic sank. Chief among them was Orion... This demonstrable accuracy is uplifting. It gives us confidence in our consideration of the scene below..."

This is demonstably NOT accurate; in fact, it is impossible. To include Orion in the picture should cause us to wonder what *other* artistic license Matania took. (If Matania did specifically depict Orion at all, that is.)

It seems dangerous go so far as to attempt to assign specific names to faces in light of this. Senan's offering Orion as proof of the accuracy of all the little details in the painting as a whole, rather than inspiring confidence, makes one question the premise of the remainder of his article.
 

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