- Posted October 14, 2013 by
Exploring Three Centuries of Philippine Art
Step back in time and explore 300 hundred years of Philippine Art through the Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas (BSP) or Central Bank of the Philippines (CBP) collection of paintings on display at the BSP Cebu Regional Office from October 1 to 18. The Art Appreciation Traveling Exhibit and Lecture Series, held in the BSP Regional Offices in La Union, Cebu and Davao (next month), presents 20 of the finest samples of Philippine Art, from the early 19th century religious paintings to contemporary images.
“We have a total of 1,400 paintings in the BSP Art Collection, which dates from the late 18th century to the present. What we’re exhibiting now is a selection of paintings from the collection, acquired between 1970 and 1990. We’d like to make art more accessible to the public and make it known that we, at the Central Bank of the Philippines (CBP) are also advocating the promotion and preservation of our country’s art, culture and history,” says Regina Mercedes S. Cruz, Bank Officer V of the BSP Museum, Corporate Affairs Office, Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas.
The exhibit, which is on display in Cebu until October 18, chronicles the evolution of Philippine Art throughout the ages, with emphasis on the important individuals and movements in each era. The collection is slated to open in DavaoCity in November.
* Above: Portrait of Andrea Dayrit by Simon Flores, circa 1870s, Oil on canvas, 81 X 58 cm.
Simon Flores (1839-1902) was a leading 19th century Filipino painter best known for his miniaturist style of painting done on commissioned portraits of affluent families. He studied painting at the Academia de Dibujo y pintura where he studied under Augustin Saez and Lorenzo Guerrero. He won an international award, a silver medal for his painting, The Music of Town, at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition.
Walk Through Three Hundreds of Years of Philippine Art
The principal epochs of Philippine art are, first, the colonial art introduced by the Spanish missionaries (16th -18th century) during which paintings were mostly religious subjects. Friars commissioned local artists to paint images from the Bible as visual aids in worship and catechism. Art served religion.
The demand for portraiture began in the early 19th century, when more Filipinos became wealthier. Portraits were common among the elite at the time. Artists painted in the miniaturismo style, every detail defined in realistic precision.
This style was replaced in the late 1920s by a wave of modernism. Portrait artists became more expressive and portraiture became more accessible, not just to members of the elite but to anyone who wanted to have their portraits painted.
From the Spanish period up to the early years of American occupation, classical art dominated the scene. This was exemplified by the academic conservative tradition of classical art in the Amorsolo school. The University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts was the learning center for this tradition and Fernando Amorsolo served as its director from 1938 to 1952. Amorsolo became master of the “backlighting” technique which enabled him to capture the distinct Philippine sunlight on his canvas. He was the first painter to be honored as National Artist for Visual Arts in 1972.
Conservatives Vs. Modernists
In 1928, Victorio Edades, fresh from his studies in the United States, introduced modern art in his one-man show at the Philippine Columbia Club in Ermita. The event saw the rise of modern art, as opposed to the idealized academic style of the conservatives. He painted life closer to reality by using dark colors and heavy brush strokes.
This caused a conflict in the art scene, with the conservatives, led by Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino on one side and the modernists triumvirate led by Victorio Edades, Carlos “Botong” Fancisco and Galo Ocampo, on the other. The latter group were part of the Thirteen Moderns who defied the traditional academic style of painting. Carlos Francisco was awarded the title National Artist for Visual Arts in 1973. Fellow modernist painter, Victorio Edades, was also honored as National Artist for Visual Arts in 1976.
In Davao, Edades mentored artist Manuel Pañares and together they worked on two murals: Kasaysayan Ng Lahi for Interbank Manila and the Central Bank mural, which portrayed the balance between agriculture and economic growth in Davao.
The art of post-war years (Second World War 1941-1945) produced grim works of art and pictures of depression – oppressed laborers, beggars, slum dwellers. Modernist painter Galo ocampo, who served as Director of the National Museum, painted the flagellants and the Nuclear Ecce Homo, an image of the hooded Christ, inspired by his wartime experiences.
Thirty years later, another historic event took place which brought about changes in Philippine art. After President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial law in 1972, the spirit of nationalism began to assert itself among artists and the plight of the poor and the oppressed under the dictatorship became their preoccupation. Art is also an expression of solidarity for the suffering humanity. This saw the birth of an art movement called social realism.
The Abstract Art movement started to develop following the years after the triumph of the modern art in the country. Arturo Luz, Jose Joya, Fernando Zobel and other artists who studied abroad brought home with them influences of the style of international mainstream abstraction. They pioneered abstract expressionism and a minimalist-style in the local art community. Hernando R. Ocampo, a homegrown artist, evolved from figuration to abstract forms using the Philippines’ festive, tropical colors and folk sensibilities.