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Our Life on Canvas: The Philippines according to Painters

by Culture Team
31 Jul 2017 | 2:10 PM

Culture is an intrinsic part of life. Not getting in touch with it leaves us without a sense of national identity. Learning more about Filipino history and way of life shows us the factors that mold our country. Not only does it link us to our heritage, it also imparts the lessons of our national past.

Art is the gateway that connects us to our culture. Visit museums, art galleries, and churches to see works of art made by our great masters. The passion for their craft lets us view the world through their eyes. Juan Luna, for example, exhibits nationalism in many of his paintings. This shows in his most famous work, Spoliarium. Although it depicts the bloody bodies of slave gladiators fallen in battle, Jose Rizal says the grand painting symbolizes the social, moral, and political life of the Philippines in their era.

You'll also feel intrigued about our history in the way Luna presented El Pacto de Sangre. Luna's rendition of the blood compact between Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi invites different interpretations. In the painting, Datu Sikatuna's back was turned while you'll see the faces of all the Spaniards. The feel of the image is rather dark and stiff with a tension between the figures.

Luna's works are only some of the great masterpieces you can behold. Check out the creations of other famous artists. The National Museum and Ayala Museum are only some of the establishments that feature works from our talented painters. Look for the creations of the following leaders in Philippine visual arts:

Fernando Amorsolo

One of the most important artists, Amorsolo earned his great reputation in portraits and paintings of the Philippine countryside. After earning a degree from the Liceo de Manila in 1909, he ventured into further studies at the University of the Philippines' School of Fine Arts.

Women and landscapes are the main subjects of Amorsolo's paintings. His pastoral works featuring Filipino customs, occupations, and feasts show impressionist influence. One trademark you'll see from his paintings is chiaroscuro, which involves using strong contrasts between light and dark colors.

Carlos ‘Botong' Francisco

Well known for his great murals, Botong Francisco is one of the modern Filipino painters who first broke away from Amorsolo's romanticist way of painting. Francisco practice linear painting and is famous for his historical works. He created the First Mass at Limasawa and The Martyrdom of Rizal, to name a few.

You'll see one of his most celebrated murals at the National Museum. The four-panel painting is a series that Francisco dubbed as The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines.

Vicente Manansala

A graduate of the School of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, Vicente Manansala received a grant from UNESCO. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Canada, then transferred to Paris to master his craft. Manansala specializes in cubism, and developed a transparent abstract technique. This superimposed the tones and patterns of the figures and backgrounds of his paintings.

Manansala's works are entrenched in bringing the culture of the barrio and the city together. His Mother and Child painting features cubist techniques and shows a woman nursing her baby. His vision of the city would influence future painters taking up the urban scene.

These artists are just some of the masters using art to express not just themselves, but also their love of country. Some use the play of light and dark colors to display different strains of emotion, from the realistic to the abstract. The local scenes they create depict our lives, our culture set on canvas.

Check out the many galleries around the metro to see works by our contemporary painters and see how reality shapes their views of the world.