20 Feb-10 April 2004. Paintings by and tributes to Mario Mafai (1902-1965). 17.00-20.00. Sun closed.
A community of artists flourished in Via Cavour in the 1930s, living modestly and celebrating the small events of their daily lives and their specifically Roman surroundings under the stress of fascism, provincialism and very low incomes. They were the painter Mario Mafai, his energetic wife Antonietta Raphael Mafai, painter and sculptor, the painters Scipione, Donghi and others.
Many of their works were shown and collected by Bruno Sargentini, and were eventually bequeathed to his son Fabio Sargentini, todays enterprising avant-garde dealer.
Mario Mafais work was brooding and lyrical. Finely observed bits of nature, nudes, Roman houses at sunset, were painted with a loving hand. All were unambitious and private. Mafai eventually painted abstraction but not with quite the same conviction of his earlier work.
Here we can thank the younger Sargentini for bringing three Mafai still lifes of the 1930s to our attention again. Loose tangles of petals and leaves, of roses and mimosas, of subtle colour and structure, create beautiful little elegies. They are secretly strong, complex, melancholy and timeless.
The dealers homage adding fresh-cut flowers from nearby Campo de Fiori to enhance the pictures is a gauche salute. The three tiny oils made so long ago stand on their own brightly alive. Edith Schloss