Seven museums showcase the art of Amorsolo

Posted at 09/11/08 3:51 PM


Oracion, 1959 by Fernando Amorsolo; GSIS Museum


There is perhaps no greater manifestation of the universal esteem by which the work of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo's work than this: more than three decades after his death; and eighty years since his first exhibitions in the 1930s; seven of the Philippines' most distinguished museums are mounting a rare Amorsolo restrospective. It is a collaboration that is ambitious as well as inspiring.

From September 2008 to April 2009, this rare exhibition dubbed as “His Art, Our Heart” and presented by the Metrobank Group brings together the Ayala Museum, GSIS Museum, Lopez Museum, Metropolitan Museum, National Museum, Vargas Museum, and the Yuchengco Museum in a unique showcase that will highlight the different facets of the man and his art.

The "His Art, Our Heart" Amorsolo retrospective will be held in the following museums on these dates:

UP Vargas Museum: “Amorsolo, His Contemporaries and Pictures of War: Capturing Anxieties” from Sept. 23 to Nov. 16

Lopez Museum:  “Tell Tale: The Artist as Storyteller, Amorsolo  as Co-Author”  from Sept 24, 2008 to April 4, 2009

The National Museum: “Master Copy” runs from Sept. 25 to Jan. 15, 2008

Metropolitan Museum of Manila: “Philippine Staple: The Land, The Harvest and the Maestro” from Sept. 26, 2008 to Jan. 13, 2009

Yuchengco Museum:  “Mukhang Tsinoy: Portraits by Fernando Amorsolo” from Oct. 1, 2008 to Jan. 17, 2009

GSIS Museum: “Rituals and Amorsolo” from Oct 2, 2008 to Dec 20, 2008

Ayala Museum: “Amorsolo’s Maidens Concealed and Revealed” from Oct. 23, 2008 to March 8, 2009.

“Amorsolo was an artist and a teacher. But before he was either, he was first and foremost a proud Filipino – one that saw so much beauty in the rituals of the country’s everyday life and expressed it with as much gusto in his works. While the scenes he depicted were simple, if not commonplace, his rendition was anything but. A visionary with genuine gift for the arts, he had complete mastery of the western-style of painting as early as the turn of the 20th century – something that our Asian neighbors only begun to understand and develop over eight decades later,” enthused Doris Magsaysay-Ho, a member of the Amorsolo Retrospective Advisory Committee.

First National Artist

That Amorsolo within his lifetime was able to create more than 10,000 paintings, sketches and studies is not the main reason why he is so universally acclaimed today. Well within his lifetime, his achievements were recognized by peers and patrons.

He received both critical and commercial success – a rare feat that very few artists enjoy even today. Rarer still was how deeply he became entrenched in popular culture, gaining not just name-recall but true affection among the masses.

Amorsolo's landscapes and portraits showed his mastery of the use of light – the illumination of subjects from the back being a favored technique that spawned many followers none of whom could be considered an equal.

With great affection and admiration, Amorsolo is now known as the Grand Old Man of Philippine Art. His masterpieces are rightly described as “the true reflections of the Filipino Soul.”

After eight decades of ceaseless artistry, Amorsolo passed away in 1972 at the age of 79. Just four days later, then President Ferdinand Marcos posthumously conferred on Amorsolo the very first National Artist Award.

Amorsolo's  "Rice Planting" (1922) was a staple of tourist brochures and his style became most sought-after by American soldiers who wanted something uniquely Filipino to bring back home to the United States.

One such client, Capt. Robert Kennedy, brought home a few Amorsolo pieces and had them framed at the Art Center Gallery in New York. The gallery owners inquired about the artist which led to Amorsolo’s first one-man show in New York. Of the 40 pieces, 24 were immediately purchased.

Long after the exhibit had ended, inquiries were still being made about Amorsolo's works. His works were part of major art collections including the Luis Araneta, Antonio Araneta and Jorge Vargas. Even the Vanderbilts of New York owned several Amorsolos. 

Amorsolo's  national and international success made him a household name in the Philippines. Like a modern-day rock star, his celebrity was used to endorse a variety of products including The Marquette, a car built by Buick.

To this day, the average Filipino remembers him both for his landscapes and the logo of Ginebra San Miguel where he depicted the avenging archangel for the popular alcoholic beverage – cementing his iconic status in Philippine popular culture.

Art in war

He continued painting even throughout the World War II. His themes, however, shifted during these dark times. His canvas served as visual documentation of the destruction of Manila’s landmarks. He sketched the horrors of war from his window or rooftop – capturing the grief of mourning women weeping for their dead husbands and sons. 

After the war, Amorsolo returned to his beloved landscapes and portraits – even painting Gen. Douglas McArthur in absentia. And just like before the war, recognitions continued to come his way including a gold medal from the UNESCO National Commission (1959); the Rizal Pro Patria Award (1961); Honorary Doctorate in the Humanities from the Far Eastern University (1961); Diploma of Merit from the University of the Philippines (1963); Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila (1963); and the Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1963).

Among his most important works are: Afternoon Meal of the Workers (Noonday Meal of the Rice Workers) (1939); Assassination of Governor Bustamante Bataan, The Bombing of the Intendencia (1942); The Building of Intramuros, Burning of the Idol, The Burning of Manila (1946); El Ciego (1928); The Conversion of the Filipinos (1931); Corner of Hell, Dalagang Bukid (1936); Defense of a Filipina Woman’s Honor (1945).

La destruccion de Manila por los salvajes japoneses (The Destruction of Manila by the Savage Japanese); Early Filipino State Wedding, Early Sulu Wedding, The Explosion (1944); The First Baptism in the Philippines, The First Mass in the Philippines, Maiden in a Stream (1921).

Making of the Philippine Flag, The Mestiza (1943); My Wife, Salud (1920), One Casualty, Our Lady of Light (1950); Planting Rice (1946); Princess Urduja, The Rape of Manila (1942); Rice Planting (1922); Sale of Panay, Sikatuna, Sunday Morning Going To Town (1958); Traders, and El Violinista (The Violinist).

Amorsolo remained prolific till the end of his life. From the ‘50s to his death, he completed an average of 10 paintings a month.

Afflicted with diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, headaches and dizziness, compounded by grief due to the death of his two sons, Amorsolo finally passed away from heart failure on April 24, 1972.

Those who wish to experience the peerless art of Fernando Amorsolo online may go to http://www.amorsoloretro.com/ for a cyber-gallery of his acclaimed works, as well as more information on the retrospective.

The retrospective will benefit CRIBS Foundation, the participating museums and the Fernando C. Amorsolo Art Foundation, Inc.