The artists of the Gambrinus: Raffaele Tafuri
by Simona Vitagliano
The Gambrinus, we know, is the “home” of many fine paintings and works of the early twentieth century, which have found space in its premises and which, even today, accompany Neapolitans and tourists in the daily ritual of coffee.
Among these works, there is one that stands out and attracts attention because it portrays a female figure in an extraordinarily modern way, in the act of smoking: it is the “Smoking” by Raffaele Tafuri.
A life in oil and watercolor
Although he was a well-known painter from Salerno on the Amalfi Coast, Tafuri did not only paint landscapes in Campania: his adoration for the Veneto earned him a series of works centered precisely on Venice and the views of Pedavena, in the province of Belluno, although they did not fail to be marvelous tributes to the coasts of the coast and of Sorrento.
Raffaele Tafuri was born in Salerno in 1857 and was a son of art: raised in a family of decorators, he showed himself attracted by drawing from a very young age, with a predilection for execution from life. After a first study of a family and self-taught nature, he decided to move to Naples to enroll in the Fine Arts Institute, attending prominent personalities such as the sculptor and professor Stanislao Lista at his studio.
Then, in 1886, he moved to his beloved Venice (he had participated in the Biennale a year earlier with his work) and, in 1905, in Pedavena which became the seat of his personal studio. There followed a series of participations in the subsequent Biennials (1907, 1909, 1910 and 1914), with numerous works, which kept him bound to the city for the rest of his life.
His activity has been very prolific and he has always been very attached to the Neapolitan School, even if he is contaminated by Venetian influences and participates in many exhibitions also outside the Italian borders. His was a genre painting, where the interiors, the landscape (urban and rural), the navy were faced, all through an always bright palette, impeccable chromatic details and refined brushstrokes.
In his Venice he returned definitively only in 1929, when he was struck by a serious and fatal illness that killed him in the same year.
Today, admirers of his taste and artistic style can admire some of his works in the museums of Salerno, Avellino and Milan as well as, obviously, inside the premises of the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, which has always reserved a place of honor for him.