Antonio Asturi was born in Vico Equense in 1904 and immediately showed a strong propensity for drawing and painting. His poor economic situation meant that he could only attend evening classes at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, encouraged by Count Giusso, a collector who immediately recognised his young talent. But after a few days, his lively personality as a “scugnizzo” (street urchin) from Vico made him intolerant of academic discipline. So he trained as a self-taught artist, picking up the influence of Neapolitan naturalism of the second half of the 19th century and immediately becoming the interpreter of a dense, synthetic and fast brushstroke.
The meeting with Antonio Mancini
To support himself, at the age of eighteen, he joined the Guardia di Finanza like his father. Constant transfers allowed him to visit various Italian cities, from Trieste to Venice, from Rome to Caserta. These were the years in which the young artist expressed himself mainly through drawing. Encouraged by one of his superiors, he finally decided to abandon his uniform and return promptly and exclusively to art.
In 1927, his first small solo exhibition was held in Rome: this was a crucial moment for Antonio Asturi, as it was on this occasion that he got to know Antonio Mancini, precisely three years before his death. Visiting his studio, he could not help but notice his rich and brilliant chromatism, learnt many years earlier from Fortuny, but also the vibrant and emotional brushstrokes of the now elderly artist.
A rapid, luminous brushstrokes
Soon after his varied training experiences in Rome, Antonio Asturi was attracted to Futurist experimentation in the early 1930s, which he abandoned almost immediately, returning to his rapid naturalism. At this point, his favourite subjects were views, seascapes and small, popular streets narrated through rapid, synthetic chromatic impressions, rich in darting luminous accents.
At the same time, he developed his favourite genre, the portrait, which we can see in the numerous works dedicated to his artist friends, men of letters and philosophers, such as Benedetto Croce or Vincenzo Migliaro. Gifted with an innate ability to capture small details and sensations, he was always animated by an artistic will that led him to immortalise every situation with sketches and drawings, which sometimes remained enclosed in the tones of a provincial style.
At the 1935 Exhibition of Drawings of the Interprovincial Fascist Union in Rome, we have a small proof of this, thanks to the drawings Pescheria and Interno. Again at the 1938 Trade Union Exhibition in Lazio, he exhibited the impressions Chioggia, Vecchio mulino and Cortile a Sorrento, which were fast, bright and full of life. In 1941, he participated in the Milan Trade Union Exhibition with two Landscapes.
Indifferent to the developments of the return to order in the Twenties, to the expressionist innovations of the Thirties and Forties and to the Informal in the following decades, Antonio Asturi remained faithful to the naturalism of the Neapolitan tradition, continuing to hold several personal exhibitions not only in Italy, but also abroad, particularly in America, where, after the war, he attracted collectors thanks to the luxuriant narration of vital everyday life in the narrow streets of Naples and the Coast.