fernando-amorsolo

This Filipino painting entitled “Fruit Pickers Harvesting Under The Mango Tree” was painted in 1939 by the famous Filipino painter and National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. Known for his chiaroscuro techniques, he was one of the native-trained painters having been influenced by Spanish artists who were so into the Spain of Cervantes and Vega. He was later given a grant to study art in Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, the same school that Juan Luna once attended. The main difference of his paintings were his recurring subject: the beauty of the Philippines, its history and its people. Perhaps his technique was also shaped by his tedious training as a painter, having been born of a middle class family and having been reared in the province of Camarines Norte. Wonder what the Philippines is like on a sunny day? Look at the Philippine rural landscapes of Amorsolo. Beautiful. 

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Unlike the 19th century masters Luna and Hidalgo who painted in a more European Style, the succeeding generation like Amorsolo painted in the Classical method like Luna and Hidalgo, but painted sceneries typical of the Philippine Landscape. Luna painted some but his Philippine themed works are less than his European themed works.

Amorsolo at the peacetime painted glowing scenes of the Philippine rural landscapes like the very popular Rice Planting (1922). When the war broke out, his works darkened and his painting featured the horrors of war that engulfed the country that time. It was only after the war that he painted again with light. His best wartime artworks are The Burning of Manila (1946) and The Burning of the Santo Domingo (1942).

Sometimes, it is also interesting to study the environments where the most famous historical figures lived. It also gives us a glimpse on how their environment shaped them.

Photo Sources: 1 2

From Manila to Madrid, 1917: At the sponsorship of Don Enrique Zobel, a young Fernando Amorsolo (twenty-five, newly married, and a father) was sent to Madrid–abandoning a budding, and not to mention more stable, career in advertising. Writes Quijano de Manila (aka Nick Joaquin, National Artist for Literature) in his “Homage to the Maestro”:

[Fernando Amorsolo] stayed seven months in Madrid, studying at the Escuela de San Fernando, boarding in a pension, sketching at the museums. Spanish art was highly conservative but the instruction at the San Fernando was expert and thorough. “I learned a lot about color, how to use it and what materials to use.” He sketched on the streets of Madrid–sidewalk book stalls, street ragamuffins–and it may be that in the quality of the Spanish sun, he learned the difference in intensity of Philippine sunlight. Certainly, he now had something different with which to compare his native experience of light.

The bohemian life of art students in Madrid did not draw him. “I was shy, I had no money–at hindi ako mahilig sa sayawan at carnaval (besides I was not fond of dancing and going to carnaval).” […] Amorsolo did not travel much outside Madrid: “Nawili ako sa pagpipinta (I was occupied with painting).”

Today in history was the first time that the Philippine flag was flown in battle. To be exact, it was May 28, 1898.

Our flag has a very colorful and somewhat dark past.

For one, the original blue color of our banner was not Royal Blue as authorized by the post-war Philippine government, but was the American Navy Blue (the blue color used in the Star-Spangled Banner). It was done so because Aguinaldo was so much inclined to get the support of the United States in our war against Spain (to Mabini’s disgust. Mabini suspected the Americans would not keep their word).

Two, the three stars were not representative symbols of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao as it is meant now, but rather Luzon, Mindanao and the island of Panay.

Third, the vibrant 8-ray sun was a totally inclusive symbol of the 8 Tagalog provinces that fought for our independence. This is somewhat weird when faced with the fact that the entire nation, not just the Tagalogs, were involved in the national fight against Spain and later on, the United States. There was even a suggestion to change the meanings of the 8 rays, or add another ray representing the Moros of the south who also gave their blood for the country. It would indeed be good for us to change the meanings and not be taken by our novelty of old and archaic meanings that promote division in the country.

Amidst all this ambiguity, as a historian, I celebrate the National Flag Day NOT because it was a victorious flag of nationalism (because it was not), NOT because it gives us pride as a race but because it symbolizes our depravity as a nation, and valor in spite of it. We will never overcome this depravity on our own, as it is universal in all the nations of the world. But somehow, the valor that God gave those who came before us, those who fought for the country under this soiled banner even when the leadership was weak and futile, should give us a heart of gratitude. If not for Divine Providence, we would not become a nation. 

(Art above: “The Making of the Philippine Flag” by Fernando Amorsolo)

Fascination for Amorsolo

Because of our Art Appreciation Class Homework, I get to do little research about Philippine Art, instead of spending time looking for foreign art. I can’t help but get fascinated at Fernando Amorsolo’s Masterpieces.

Here are some of my favorites:

Antipolo Fiesta

Afternoon Meal Under the Mango Tree

Under the Mango Tree

Mango Vendor

Ina at Anak

Lavandera

Palay Maiden

What I really love about Amorsolo’s works is that they show Filipino Living during his time and the true beauty of Filipinas. It doesn’t matter if our group would choose from any of these pieces, what matters the most is that I learned to appreciate Philippine Art.

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One National Artist on another: Nick Joaquin on Fernando Amorsolo

The 1920s was when [Fernando Amorsolo] developed the light—or, rather, the backlighting—that is his greatest contribution to Philippine painting. The glow against which his figures stand and which usually coruscates into a burst of light at one point of the canvas—in a cluster of leaves, a spill of hair, the swell of breasts—is what makes classic the Amorsolo Filipininana of his time.

Says the Maestro: “When I came back from Spain I did nothing but paint and paint out in the open, studying the light. Maski sa España kung nagpipinta ako, diyan ako nagpipinta sa liwanag na liwanag. Wala akong ginawa kundi mag-observe (Even in Spain, when I painted, I would paint where the light was brightest. I would no nothing but observe the light).”

In his work the Philippine earth is observed in hot light and delight, by an artist in whom abounded the vitality of ordinary sensual man, a man who married two wives, begot six children by the first and eight by the second, and who rose every day with the dawn to paint and paint—until arthritis slowed down those lusty prolific hands.

Today is the 42nd death anniversary of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.

Fernando Amorsolo applying the finishing touches on his portraits of three Philippine presidents–Manuel Roxas, Manuel L. Quezon, and Sergio Osmeña. These presidential portraits were made specifically for the Philippine embassy in Washington D.C.

Amorsolo would again paint the official portraits of the above Presidents, as well as those of Jose P. Laurel and Elpidio Quirino; those Amorsolo portraits are currently on display in Malacañan Palace.

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Today is the 43rd death anniversary of the beloved painter Fernando Amorsolo! If you had been born on the day he died, happy 43rd birthday! If you happened to have just passed away, we don’t celebrate your death anniversary until next year! Same goes for if you’ve just been born… but you know… for your birth… Unless you’re Korean.