In the hub of the Ateneo de Manila’s Loyola Schools (College and Post-Graduate Studies) is the Rizal Library. The library was named after the Philippine National Hero, José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda or José Rizal (1861 –1896); who graduated from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila with a Bachelor of Arts in 1877. Although the Ateneo had maintained a library, since its foundation in 1859, the library in Intramuros was officially named the Rizal Hall in 1922.
When the Ateneo de Manila moved to the Loyola Heights of Marikina (now a part of Quezon City) in 1952, there was no official structure for the college library. It was only in 1967, with the support of the Ford Foundation, that the new Rizal Library was finally constructed.
Aside from being a new home to the collection of books for the Ateneo College, the Rizal Library also became home to the Ateneo Art Gallery. The Ateneo Art Gallery has its roots with the vast collection of artifacts collected by Ateneo teachers, students, and administrative priests of the years. However, the art gallery officially started when university teacher, businessman, painter and scholar Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo (1924–1984) donated his collection of over 200 artworks to the Ateneo in 1961, for students to study and appreciate. His collection was first housed at the Bellarmine Hall, and then later moved to the newly constructed Rizal Library in 1967.
Zobel’s collection included some works of masters from the American Occupation of the Philippines (1898-1946), and an impressive selection of Philippine Modern Art. There artworks had jumped started the Ateneo’s love affair with art, as the gallery expanded its collection to include those of international masters, such as Rembrandt, Goya, Delacroix, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso.
Open to the public, and not just the Ateneo community, the Ateneo Art Gallery aimed to become a mecca for Philippine contemporary art. However, its out-of-the-way location proved to be a challenge for most visitors; so the Ateneo Art Gallery launched the Ateneo Art Awards in 2004, as a mean to create more relevance to the gallery. The Ateneo Art Awards are given yearly to young artists (36 years of age or below), who had significant exhibitions in the previous year. There are two categories: the Fernando Zóbel Prizes for Visual Art and the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism.
The second award was named after Purita Kalaw-Ledesma, an art parton who helped establish the AAP (Artist Association of the Philippines) in 1947. The AAP is the oldest artists’ group in Asia.
Here are some of the significant artworks found in the Ateneo Art Gallery collection:
Isabelo L. Tampinco (1850-1933) was a classicist sculptor who was practicing before art was taught in the formal setting of tertiary educational institutions. A Chinese-mestizo who was born in Binondo, his family has traced their roots to the former ruler of Manila, Datu Lakadula. He was trained at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura; and he was also classmates with the José Rizal, at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. Tampinco was the favored artist of the Jesuits during the late 19th century, as we was commissioned to carve the religious icons and decorative motifs of the San Ignacio Church of Intramuros, from 1892 to 1899. This is high relief screen from San Ignacio, which was saved from the fire that gutted the church in 1932. He has also created works for the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church and the Santo Domingo Church. His works have represented the Philippines in various international events; such as Exposicion Universal de Barcelona (1888), Exposición Regional de Filipinas (1895), and the St. Louis Exposition (1904). He was also awarded the Mérito Civil from Governor-General Domingo Moriones, close to the end of the Spanish occupation (1521-1898).
Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (1892-1972) was born in Manila, and is the master of romantic realism style that defined Philippine art in the 1920s to the 1940s. He was one of the first students of the UP (University of the Philippines) School of Fine Arts when it opened in 1909, and latter became one of its leading teachers. His portrayal of the beautiful and dignified peasants of the Philippine countryside, as a form of silent nationalistic protest against the rapid adapting of American styles and attitudes among Filipinos in the city, and thus he was showing the true spirit of the Filipino was to be found in the provinces. He was declared the first National Artist, by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, in 1972.
Victorio C. Edades (1895 -1985) was born in Pangasinan, and he is considered father of Philippine Modern Art. He broke into the scene with his two large and dark expressionistic paintings “The Builders” and “The Sketch” in 1928. These were a stark different from the gaily lit works of the romanticists, who dominated the art scene then. He was panned for his works, but he continued to promote modern art. He soon drew in more adherents to the modernist styles, which finally took hold in the 1940s. Edades was declared a National Artist in 1976.
Dominador Hilario Castañeda (1904-1967) was born in Manila, and he was one of the first set of modernists who joined Edades in his promotion of modern art in the Philippines. Although his body of works featured many countryside scenes, like the dominant romanticists, his style was closer to impressionism, than the classicist style. Castañeda was also noted to be one of the first to write a definitive history on Philippine art, in 1964. He was awarded the Patnubay Sining Award by the City of Manila, in 1971.
Diosdado M. Lorenzo (1906-1984) was born in Nueva Ecija, and he was a painter who also joined the thrust of the first Philippine modernists. His style can be considered a cross between impressionism and expressionism. He was awarded the Araw ng Maynila Award in 1969 and the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1970
Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981) took his first art lessons under the turn-of-the-century genre painter Ramón Resurrección Peralta (1877-1940), before entering the U.P. school of Fine Arts in 1926. After graduating in 1930, Manansala continued his studies at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Montreal, Canada, and in Paris, France. While in Paris, he took an apprenticeship under the French avant-garde artist Joseph Fernand Henri Léger (1881-1955). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Manansala took more studies at the Otis Art Institute, in California, USA. Manansala’s first jobs in the 1930s were as an illustrator for the Philippines Herald and Liwayway and layout artist for Photonews and Saturday Evening News Magazine. As an artist, Manansala was honored with the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1963, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1970, and he was proclaimed National Artist in Painting in 1982.
Hernando Ruiz Ocampo (1911-1978) was a self-taught painter who started in a cubist style, before becoming one of the first masters of abstractionism in Philippine art. He was part of the first “13 Moderns”, who pushed the envelope Philippine art towards modernism. Ocampo first studied law and commerce, before taking up creative writing. He established himself as a noted poet, playwright, fictionalist, editor, and a scriptwriter and director for television; in which he was known to have written for Palaris Feler and Fernando Poe Productions, and produced and directed for the Filipino Players Guild. Many of his articles could be found in Taliba newspaper and Manila Sunday Chronicle magazine. Ocampo also branched out to business, where he started working at the Philippine Education Company (PECO) in 1931, and he worked as executive secretary of the National Paper Mills Inc. in 1935. As an artist, he was honored with Republic Cultural Award in 1965; Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award in 1969; Diwa ng Lahi Award in 1976; Gawad CCP para sa Sining Award in 1979; and the posthumous recognition as National Artist in 1991.
Victor Sta. Maria Oteyza (1913- 1979) was an engineer, musician, director for radio dramas, a writer, and a painter. As a part of the “13 Moderns”. Oteyza promoted modern art to his hometown of Baguio. In dedication to his contributions of Philippine art, the Victor Oteyza Community Arts Space (VOCAS) was launched in Baguio City, 2001.
As mentioned earlier, Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo (1924–1984) is a Spanish-Filipino born in Manila; and he is noted as the primary patron of the Ateneo Art Gallery, since he donated his collection of artworks in 1961. Aside from the being a businessman, educator, art collector, and museum founder; Zobel de Ayala was part of the second wave of modernists, who now dominated the art scene in the 1950s. His paintings were abstracted images of Philippine scenes, often rendered in large color brushstrokes. In 1983 he was awarded the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes by King Juan Carlos of Spain, and in 2008 he received (posthumously) the Presidential Medal of Merit.
Simplicia “Nena” L. Saguil (1924-1994) was born in Manila, and she was a part of the second wave of Philippine modernists, also known as the Neo Realists. Originally painting in an impressionistic style, Saguil soon moved to her distinct abstract works of meditative circles in patterns. In 1974 she was awarded the Outstanding Overseas Filipinos, and in 2006 she was bestowed (posthumously) the Presidential Medal of Merit.
Arturo Rogerio Luz (1926) was born in Manila; and he was a Neo Realist, whose abstracted works gave a play to everyday objects and scenes. His Luz Gallery has helped launch the next generations of artists. Arturo has held many important positions in the world of art, such as president of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) in 1952, executive director of the Design Center of the Philippines (1973-1987), director, Metropolitan Museum of Manila (1976-1986), and director of Museum of Philippine Art (1977-1985). Luz represented the Philippines in various exhibitions abroad, including the Arte de America y España in Europe in 1963, Sao Paolo Biennale in 1974, the Tokyo International Print Biennale in 1974, and the eighth British International Print Biennale in 1984. Aside from local and international exhibitions, Arturo also received accolades such as the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Painting (1966), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award for Painting (1980), the Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government (1978), the Gawad CCP para sa Sining (1989), and the National Artist for Visual Art in 1997.
Ang Kiukok ( 洪救國) was born as Ang Hwa Shing (1931-2005), to a family of Chinese immigrants in Davao City. His often violent works are a interweaving of cubist, expressionist and surrealist styles. A graduate of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Ang Kuikok originally had foregone the artistic life, in exchange of teaching English to the children of Chinese expatriates. After winning many painting competitions, Ang Kuikok was awarded the Outstanding Overseas Chinese in Art (1961), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila (1976), the Outstanding Alumnus award by the UST (1978), and finally the National Artist for Painting (2001).
Antonio Gilbuena Austria (1936) was part of the third wave of modernists, who started their careers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Austria was born in China, but his family returned to the Philippines in the 1940s. He was honored as part of the first Thirteen Artist Award, in 1970; which was an initiative by the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) to recognize young artists who have made significant contributions to Philippine art.
Luis Claudio “Onib” Olmedo (1937-1996) was born in Manila; and he was a practicing architect, before he shifted to expressionistic painting. His warped figures were very influential to the young artists of the late 1980s. In 1992, he was given the Thirteen Artist Award.
Angelito Antonio (1939) was born in Bulacan; and he started as a cubist painter, whose evolution in art is now moving towards abstraction. He married his colleague Norma Belleza, and has three children with her. His painting “Dying Bird” has been considered as a masterpiece of Philippine painting, by the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas. In 1970, he was granted the Thirteen Artist Award by the CCP.
Prudencio Lamarroza (1943) was born in Ilocos Sur, and is recognized by his colorful surrealist landscapes and portraits of women. His most noted body of works revolve around theme on the Amburayan River, which is found in his province of Ilocos Sur. In 1978 Lamarroza was awarded the Sadiri ti Tagudin by the Ilocos Sur provincial government, and in 1983 he was given the Patnubay Kalinangan Award by the City of Manila.
Jesus Danilo Echavaria Dalena (1942) was born in Laguna; and he was a humorous social realism, during the Martial Law years (1972-81). He first started his career by illustrating editorial cartoons for the Free Press and Asia-Philippines Leader. Dalena married a fellow artist, Julie Lluch, whom they had three children. He has also appeared in one of the films by his daughter, Sari Raissa Lluch Dalena, which has earned him a page in IMBd (Internet Movie Database). In 1972, he was given the Thirteen Artist Award.
Julie Lluch (1946) was born in Iligan; and she has been a stalwart in feminist art since the 1970s. First known for her life-size terracotta sculptures of herself, representing various issues and statements on a Filipina’s life, Julie has then moved on to experiments in film, as well as public sculpture made of bronze. She married fellow artist, Danny Dalena; and they had three daughters, whom they call the Tres Marias (three Marias). In 1990, she was recognized with the Thirteen Artist Award.
Pablo Baen Santos (1943) was born in Manila; and his colorful social realist paintings have long been poking fun at the government and society since the Martial Law era. Santos is one of the founding members and first chair of Kaisahan Group of socio-realist painters. In 1990, he was given the Thirteen Artist Award by the CCP.
Jose Tence Ruiz (1958) was born in Manila; and his colorful multi-media installations stand as commentaries to issues in Philippine society. A graduate of the Ateneo de Manila; Ruiz has represented the Philippines in various international events, of which the most notable is the 2016 Venice Biennale. In 1988, he was recognized with the Thirteen Artist Award by the CCP.
To walk among the giants and young movers in Philippine art is a privilege and honor that the Ateneo student must never take for granted. And for these students, having the Ateneo Art Gallery in their campus is a means of opening their horizons, beyond the typical experiences of campus life.