Mario Mafai was an Italian painter, initiator, in 1929, with Scipione (Gino Bonichi) and Antonietta Raphaël, of an artistic group that was called "Roman School".
He soon left regular school to attend, with Scipione, the Free School of the nude at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome.
His career and his poetics remained closely linked to Rome, both in themes and in studies and in frequentations: Mafai's training in those years was built above all in the Roman galleries and museums and in the Art History library of Palazzo Venezia. .
After the meeting with Raphaël,painter and then sculptress, to whom he was linked a long affective and artistic association and also three daughters, born between 1926 and 1930, he made his debut with the "Exhibition of studies and sketches" organized in 1927 by the National Artistic Association in Via Margutta. In 1928 he exhibited again, at the XCIV Exhibition of Amateurs and Cultors of Fine Arts, and he made a new public appearance, with Scipione and others, at the 1929 Conference of Young Painters at Palazzo Doria. - impressionism.
Those were very creative years of great debates: Mafai and Raphaël had taken up their home and studio at 335 via Cavour, in a building that was later demolished with the guttings for the opening of the Imperial Forums, and the house became a point of reference and place of discussion for various artists and writers, including Enrico Falqui, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Libero de Libero, Leonardo Sinisgalli, Renato Marino Mazzacurati and above all Scipione.
In 1930 he spent a few months in Paris with Raphaël, but in November he was back in Rome where he attended the Osteria Fratelli Menghi, a well-known meeting point for painters, directors, screenwriters, writers and poets between the 40s and 70s and organized an exhibition with Scipione. The works of some artists of the Roman School then leave for a traveling exhibition in the United States. The group of young painters began to get noticed and to have their own identity in the Roman artistic panorama: Roberto Longhi defined it in 1931 as the "Scuola di via Cavour".
The thirties were years of intense work for Mafai and not lacking in recognition:
in 1931 you exhibited at the I Quadriennale in Rome;
in 1932 she exhibited at the XVIII Venice Biennale;
in 1935 the II Quadriennale in Rome hosted 19 solo exhibitions of artists, including that of Mafai with 29 paintings; the event sanctions her position and earns him a prize of 25,000 lire (those were the years in which they sang "If I could have a thousand lire a month" ..);
in 1938 she was again in Venice, at the 21st Biennale, this time with a room all for him and Alberto Ziveri.
And in the meantime he paints and exhibits: in San Francisco (1935), in the traveling exhibition "Exhibition of Contemporary Italian Painting", in Rome, at the Galleria della Cometa (personal, 1937), in Milan at the Galleria Grande (1939) and again in 1940 (solo show at the Barbaroux Gallery).
In 1939 he moved with his family to Genoa, to free Antonietta from racial discrimination. War looms, and in his paintings the color darkens, the figure twists, the memory of Goya appears and Grosz's shadow in the figures. In 1940 he won the Bergamo prize.
These are the years in which he frequents Camillo Sbarbaro and meets Giacomo Manzù and Guttuso.
He returned to Rome in 1943 and in 1948 he joined the PCI.
In '48 he was back in Venice for the 24th Biennale, which set up his own personal of works produced from 1938 to '47.
In the period 1949-1950, he agrees to participate in the formation of the important Verzocchi collection on the theme of work, and creates, together with a self-portrait, The coal heavers. The Verzocchi collection is now kept in the Civic Art Gallery of Forlì.
From that moment it is a succession of exhibitions and prizes: he participates in the VII Rome Quadrennial of '55, the '58 Biennale with 15 canvases, the Rome Quadriennale of '59 which dedicates a historical exhibition to the Roman School.
Meanwhile, the search for him evolves towards the informal. He kept his last solo show at the L'Attico Gallery in Rome in 1964.
In 1965, the day after his death, a retrospective was dedicated to him as part of the IX Quadrennial in Rome.
The Municipality of Rome has dedicated a passage to him called "Galleria Mario Mafai", in the Caravaggio district.