The Life

1918 - Londra

1927 - Mafai, Raphael e Miriam

1930 - Terrazza di via Cavour

1940 - nello studio di Genova

1967 - con Ragghianti ad una personale

Characterized by a strong anti-academic and non formal touch, painter and sculptress Antonietta Raphaël is a noteworthy figure in Italian art of the first half of the 20th century.  
Antonietta was born in the small Lithuanian village of Kovno around 1895 and she was the youngest of 11 siblings. Her father Simon was the Rabbi of the town’s Jewish community and died in 1903. Driven by the growing anti-Semitic atmosphere and the increasing persecution, Antonietta moved to London together with her mother in 1905, when she was still a child. Antonietta lived in the United Kingdom for about twenty years. 

She graduated with success at the Royal Academy of Music and taught solfège. In those years, Antonietta was in touch with the London literary and artistic circles and made friends with many artists, among which Jacob Epstein, Ossip Zadkin and the poet IsaccRosemberg, who then died in France during WW2.
In 1923, after her mother’s death caused by the Spanish flu, Antonietta left London and began travelling  around Europe. She stayed in Nice and Paris while she was in France and then moved to Rome, Italy, in 1924.

Antonietta was fascinated by the Mediterranean light, colours and art.  She visited museums and galleries and attended the nude art classes at the Fine Arts Academy. During her stay in Rome she met many young artists, such as Gino Bonichi (called Scipione), Alberto Ziveri, Domenico Lazzaro and Mario Mafai, the latter becoming her life partner. With him she developed a life-long artistic and personal bond that lead to the birth of 3 daughters and an intense artistic production.

Mario and Antonietta moved to an apartment in Via Cavour, opposite the Palatin ruins which inspired many of her landscapes. Antonietta’s works were dedicated several exhibitions that granted her the favourable reviews of art critics of the likes of Pavolini and De Libero, whom had noticed her for her original paintings. Roberto Longhi described Antonietta as “Chagall's foster sister” and defined the artistic threesome formed by Mafai, Raphaël and Scipione “the school of Via Cavour”. Their painting stood out for the common language code, the strong artistic palette and a very special structure, thus overtaking twentieth century classicism.
In 1930 Antonietta and Mario head off to Paris to improve their knowledge of the new French painting and to set free from Italian provincialism. By then, the Italian cultural scene had already been compromised and suffocated by the rise of the Fascist movement. After a few months Mafai moved back to Italy, where he was regarded as a rising star of pictorial arts. Raphaël moved back to London, where she lived until 1933.

Encouraged by her friend Epstein, Antonietta experimented sculpting and dedicated completely to this new form of expression. Back in Italy, supported by Ettore Colla, Raphaël courageously set up large sculptures, such as Narciso, La Fuga da Sodoma, the double Portrait with Mafai, Miriam che dorme, Le Tre Sorelle in cement. She took part in several National exhibitions, where her work was noticed due to its unique strength.  

Following the promulgation of the  “provisions for the defense of the Italian race”, in 1938, her just started carrier curtly stopped. It was forbidden for Jewish people to teach, publish books, exhibit in museums, attend public schools. Raphaël moved to Genoa with Mafai and her daugthers where, isolated from the artistic word, she spent the tragic years of WW2 and worked at important sculptures such as Uomo in bagno, Toro morente, Niobe. Friends Emilio Jesi and Alberto della Ragione followed her work with affection and regard and became collectors of her work.
When the war ended, Antonietta's work was shown again in the most important National exhibitions: at Venice BiennIal in 1948, 1950, 1952 and 1954, at the Quadriennale di Roma. Her work received Forte dei Marmi, Comune di Genova and Monumento a Mameli awards. The Centro Culturale Olivetti dedicated an anthological exhibition to Antonietta, with 39 paintings and 13 sculptures, confirming her fundamental role in the Italian art movement of the thirties.
In the fifties, Raphaël travelled to Sicily, Spain, Israel and was invited to China as member of
an Italian delegation of artists together with Turcato, Zancanaro, Fabbri.
The sixties were a period of intense work; Antonietta started painting again with enthusiasm and set up artworks of relevant dimensions while focusing on biblical themes: Il Cantico dei Cantici, Er e Tamar, Le lamentazioni di Giobbe. She also devoted herself with great passion to graphics, tempera paintings, etching and completed the bronze casting of her sculptures.
Raphaël's works are shown in the National Museums of Modern Art in Rome, Genoa, Milan, Turin, Brescia, Florence and Matera, besides the many important private collections.  
The most prestigious art critics have written about Antonietta Raphaël: R.Longhi, C.Pavolini, M.Venturoli, C.Brandi, C.L.Ragghianti, M.De Micheli, G.Carandente, Giuseppe Appella, M.Fagiolo Dell’Arco, V.Martinelli, A.Bonito Oliva.



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