Born in Naples, Italy, Matania's early training in art came from his father, who was an artist. He illustrated his first book at the age of fourteen, at that age moving to Milan to work for Illustrazione Italiana, then moved north in 1901 to work on Illustration Francaise in Pairs and The Graphic in London. After returning to Italy for military serice he came back to London at the age of twenty-four and joined the staff of The Sphere, and spent the rest of his life in England.
Matania was an expert at depicting historical scenes from all periods of history, as well as specific, current news events, with startling realism and precision for the time. His illustrations for The Sphere depicting the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912 have been cited as an early exemplar. In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Matania became a war artist an spent nearly five years at the front drawing hundreds of sketches which often are featured in histories of the War. After the war, he specialized in illustrating historical and ceremonial events, and his drawings were immensely popular, appearing in all the principal magazines and quality newspapers in Europe and American, with occasional forays into science fiction and fantasy.
Matania's illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pirates of Venus (1933) and Lost on Venus (1933-34) compared favorably to the best in the field, and it became apparent that many modern day artists such as Frank Frazetta were likely inspired by Matania's sensuous style of illustrating. His sole brush with the film industry was his contribution to the well-known 1933 Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. A painting by Matania reflected with a mirror into the camera lens served as most of the exciting "Albert Hall" audience and was shot in a small studio.
Frank, Jane. A Biographical Dictionary: Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century. Published by McFarland & Company, Inc.,
Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, 2009. p. 331.