When the artist, businessman and educator, Fernando Montojo Zóbel de Ayala (1924–1984), donated over 200 pieces of Philippine Modern Art to the Ateneo de Manila University, little would he know that this was the start of a chain of events that lead to the establishment of the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG), and its institutionalization as the premier museum of Philippine modern and contemporary art. The AAG collection continued to grow, as more alumni started donating artworks from their own personal collection, and the AAG had to move from the Ateneo’s Rizal Library, to its new home in the Areté, in the Ateneo de Manila University campus, along Katipunan Avenue, in Quezon City.
One of those contributors to the collection is the historian, author, and educator Felipe Lamberto Raymundo Ocampo (born 1961), who is better known as Ambeth Ocampo, who has donated a treasure of Spanish colonial art (1565-1898) and Philippine modern art. Ocampo graduated from the Ateneo grade school and high school, then finished his undergraduate studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, took his partial doctorate studies at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and was finally bestowed with an honorary doctorate degree by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, in 2008. Ocampo’s musings on history were first published in the Philippine Daily Express, the Philippine Daily Globe, and later at the Philippine Daily Inquirer; which would later launch his many books on history. Due to his extensive work in historical research, Ocampo would hold keep positions in various cultural agencies, such as a board member and chair of the National Historical Institute (NHI), consultant to the National Library of the Philippines (NLP), co-chair of the Manila Historical and Heritage Commission, and committee member and chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Ocampo would also teach at the Ateneo de Manila, the De La Salle University (DLSU), the Far Eastern University (FEU), the University of the Philippines, the San Beda College, and the Universidad de Manila; where he would also serve as one of its Board of Regents. Ocampo also served as a visiting professor and research fellow at the Kyoto University, the Sophia University in Tokyo, and the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. For his many accomplishments, Ocampo has been honored with the 1990, 1992 and 1993 National Book Award, the 1997 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award, the 2006 Writers Union of the Philippines’ Gawad Balagtas lifetime achievement award, the 2007 Metro Bank Outstanding Teacher Award the 2007 Kingdom of Spain’s Encomienda (Commander) de la Orden del Merito Civil (Order of Civil Merit), the 2007 Knights of Rizal’s Commander of the Order, the 2007 City of Manila’s Gatpuno Villegas Award (Patnubay ng Sining), the 2010 the Order of Lakandula with a Rank of Bayani, the 2013 Presidential Medal of Merit, the 2015 and 2016 Gawad Tanglaw Award for journalism, and the 2016 Fukuoka Prize for academics. Ocampo is also a Catholic brother, in the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, with the monastic name of Dom. Ignacio Maria, OSB.
One of the oldest pieces donated by Ambeth Ocampo is an 18th Century (1701-1800) painting of Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso (Our Lady of the Good Event). Rendered in the native style, the religious icon was most likely created by a self-taught painter, and features a Marian incarnation, that is only found in the Philippines. The paint is based on a miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was brought to the Philippines by Augustinian priests, in 1580. The icon was left unattended for years in the newly constructed Parish of St. Andrew in Palanyag, which is now Parañaque City. Later on, a local fisherman, named Catig (outrigger), asked to care for the icon and was allowed by the local priest. At the death bed of Catig, another priest requested to take the icon from him, which he obliged. Upon bring the icon to his room, the priest started seeing visions emanating from the Marian image. He quickly reported it to his superiors, and soon more miracles were attributed to the icon, as it was finally enshrined back into the cathedral of Saint Andrew. In naming the icon, the parish asked the townspeople to give their suggestions, and in a draw of lots, the name of Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso was drawn six times, and thus starting the legacy of this Marian image in Philippine Catholic history.
The next old piece in the Ocampo collection is a small painted altar with the images of San Ignacio de Loyola, Santo Niño and San Francisco Xavier. This small devotional altar is a testimonial to the Jesuit order, and the foundation of Catholicism in the Philippines. The first saint is the Spanish-Basque San Ignacio de Loyola (Saint Ignatius of Loyola, born Íñigo López de Loyola, 1491-1609), the founder of the Jesuit Order (Societas Iesu or Society of Jesus) in 1540, and who arrived in the Philippines in 1581. The second saint is the Spanish-Basque San Francisco Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta, 1506-1552), and Jesuit priest who was known for his evangelization throughout Asia, and is the first Christian missionary to enter Japan, Borneo, and the Maluku Islands. Finally, the center image is that of the Santo Niño (Christ Child), which was brought by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães, 1480-1521), to the islands that would be called the Philippines, in 1521. After the local chieftain, Rajah Humabon, and some of his people were converted and baptized, Magellan gave Humabon’s consort, Hara Humamay, the Santo Niño. Forty four years later, the image was once more discovered in 1565, buried in a pine box, by Juan Camus, one of the soldiers of the Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi (1502-1572). Seen as miraculous, the Santo Niño is now enshrined in Cebu City, and is one of the patron saints of the Philippines.
The last of the religious images donated by Ocampo is that of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary), which was painted by Mariano Asuncion, in 1866. The devotion to the Nuestra Señora del Rosario is a Dominican tradition, which started in 1220, when the Spanish-Castilian Saint Dominic (born Domingo Félix de Guzmán, 1170-1221) received a vision of Blessed Virgin Mary, when he prayed for an intervention in his difficulty in converting the Gnostic Albigensians, With the arrival of the Dominicans in the Philippines, in 1581, the Nuestra Señora del Rosario has become the patron saint of the City of Manila, Quezon City, the Province of Bohol, and the Province of Surigao del Norte.
Mariano Molo de San Agustin Asuncion, Jr. (1802-1885) is a noted religious painter, from the Santa Cruz district of Manila. Asuncion had fifteen other siblings, of which five of his brothers: Antonio, Justiniano, Ambrocio, Manuel Tarsilo and Leoncio were also noted painters and sculptors. When Damina Domingo established the Academia de Dibujo, Asuncion and his brothers took their formal art lessons under the master. Asuncion was most noted for his naturalistic portrayals of religious icons, and the mastery of miniaturism in the rendering of the fine details of the icons, such as the details of the embroidered gowns of the saints. Asuncion’s religious paintings were further inspired by his membership in the Venerable Orden Tercera de San Francisco (VOT), a secular Franciscan order.
Although painting in the Philippines started with the traditions of religious iconography, the 19th Century (1801-1900) ushered a secularization of the arts starting with the 1785 royal edict of King Charles III of Spain; in which he decreed that artists, including those in the colonies, would no longer needed to obtain a license to practice from the Church. Without the regular church patronage, artists would ply their trade by creating portraits of the local elite, as well as develop a series of small watercolor paintings and etching of daily life and costume in the Philippines, with the growing tourist market. Tourism started after the closing of the Galleon Trade in 1815, with the exclusive trade between Spain, Mexico and the Philippines. With the opening of the markets with other nations, merchants and visitors from Europe and the United States of America were coming to the Philippine shores. Once of the favorite mementos were the watercolor paints, called Tipos del Pais (Types of People), which were popularized by Damián Domingo y Gabor (1796-1834), the founder of Philippine secular painting and art education. This was later continued by his student, Justiniano Asuncion , whose two paintings “Un Mestizo de Manila” (A Mestizo from Manila) and “Una Mestiza de Manila” (A Mestiza from Manila), show the colorful clothing of a half Spanish-Indio or half Chinese-Indio couple in the street of Manila.
Justiniano Molo de San Agustin Asuncion (1816-1898) is noted portraits and religious painter, who also painted genre themes in the Tipos del Pais style. Although his family was from Manila, Asuncion was born and raised in the province of Sorsogon. Asuncion one part of an artistic family with sixteen siblings, of which this five brothers: Antonio, Mariano Jr., Ambrocio, Manuel Tarsilo and Leoncio were also noted painters and sculptors. Like his father, Auncion would serve as a local politician (gobernadorcillo), in the Santa Cruz district, of Manila. Asuncion trained in the arts with his brothers at the Academia de Dibujo under Damian Domingo. Asuncion is most noted for his portraits of the young ladies of wealth families, with is mastery of miniaturism most evident to his realistic work of lacework. Aside from his portraits, Asuncion would create small painting of everyday life and costumes, in a series of albums called de trajes.
Decades after the establishment of the first school of art was opened by Damian Domingo, in 1821, the booming economy allowed many local artists to continue their studies in Europe. One of these artists was Felix Resurreccion Hidaldo, who award winning works were used by the local propaganda movement to prove that the indio (native) was an equal and possibly superior, to the Spanish colonizers. The propaganda movement, and the subsequent Philippine Revolution (1896-1898), failed when the Spanish government turned over the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico to the United States of America, after the end of the Spanish-American War, in 1898. Although the Filipinos waged war against the Americans, they eventually surrendered to the superior firepower of the new colonizers. The USA government had to showcase to the world and its own citizens its new statues as a world power, and justify its conquest of the Philippines, in their program of “Benevolent Assimilation.” So in 1904, the USA government opened the Universal Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri; which showcase the best of Philippine art and crafts, as well as opening “villages” for more than thirty ethnic groups in human zoos. As a part of the Philippine Pavilion of the exposition, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo was commissioned by the American government to create a work that would represent the peace and liberty perpetuated by American rule. And from 1903 to 1904, Hidalgo created many studies for his piece “Per Pacem et Libertatem”(Through Peace and Liberty), before shipping the final piece to St. Louis. After the exposition, the painting was returned to the Philippines, where it was kept on permanent display at the Ayuntamiento de Manila, the house of the Manila City Council. The painting was later destroyed, along with the Ayuntamiento, when the American military forces bombed Manila at the tail end of World War II, to flush out the Japanese, in 1945. Aside from this head study that was donated by Ocampo, more complete studies of the “Per Pacem et Libertatem” can be found at the Lopez Museum and Library.
Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo y Padilla(1853-1913) is an award winning artist, who made his mark among the European painting competitions in the late 19th century. In 1884, Hidalgo won the silver prize for his work “Las Virgenes Expuestas al Populacho” (The Christian Virgins exposed to the Public), at the Exposicion Nacional de Bellas Artes, in Madrid.In 1887, he won the gold prize for his work “La Barca de Aqueronte” (The Boat of Charon), at the Exposicion General de las Filipinas, in Madrid; which would go on to win won the silver prize, at the 1889 Exposicion Universelle, in Paris; and was also awarded the Dilpoma of honor, at the 1891 Exposicion General de Bellas Artes, in Barcelona; and finally the gold prize, at the 1894 Exposicion Internacional de Bellas Artes, in Madrid. Although they were award winners, both Hidalgo and Luna were not as significant in the history of art, because Impressionism and Post-Impression had already taken a hold of the modern Paris art scene during those times. However, the two artists were important to the Reformist Propaganda Movement, where their success were rallying points as proof that the indio was equal, if not better, than the Spaniards.
Aside from Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, there were other noted indio (natives to the Spanish colonial masters) who went to Europe to continue their studies, and propagandize for the inclusion of the Philippines as a province of Spain, and not a colony; thus rendering all indios as Spanish citizens with equal rights. Among these artists were Felipe Arroyo Roxas (1840-1899), Melecio Figueroa (1842-1903), Miguel Zaragoza y Aranquizna (1847–1923), Rafael Enriquez y Villanueva (1850-1937), Telesforo Alayon Sucgang (1855-1916), Juan Luna y Novicio (1857-1899), Felix Pardo de Tavera (1859-1932), and José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (1861-1896).Whereas most of the artists were paints, Figueroa, Pardo de Tavera, and Rizal were known for their sculpture. In Pardo de Tavera’s 1890 piece entitled “C’est Mi!” (It’s Me!), the artist shows a young Parisian boy, probably a young lad he would encounter every day, outside the family home in Paris. With their fervent campaign against colonialization, Pardo de Tavera and other propagandists were exiled from the Philippines, and were only able to return when the Americans took over the country. As for Pardo de Tavera’s sculpture, there are many copies that have been circulating in different auction markets, because the Argentina born Eugène François Alexandre Soleau (1853-1929), made many copies in 1904, using his foundry in Paris.
Felix Pardo de Tavera, Jr. y Gorricho (1859-1932) a sculptor of Portuguese descent, and was born in Manila. De Tavera was educated at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in 1874, and at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura, which was located in one of his family’s properties. After his graduation in 1876, he left in 1877 to further his studies in Paris where the Pardo de Tavera Family lived in exile. He studied at Sorbonne University and graduated with a medicine degree in 1882. Felix Pardo de Tavera’s doctoral dissertation examined the causes of fetal death during early pregnancy.
The cessation of hostiles between the Philippine and American militaries brought a relative peace to the archipelago, and new developments in infrastructure and technologies raised the Filipino’s access to new ideas from around the world. This calmed down many of the former revolutionaries of the Philippine Revolution (1896-1898) and the Philippine-American War (1899-1904). However, Filipinos still dreamt of independence, and looked in scorn at the people who wholeheartedly embraced this new American culture. Painters like Fabian de la Rosa wanted to speak out against this lack of sovereignty, but were frightened of the strict censorship of the Americans. So De la Rosa and his students would paint genre scenes of the common folk in the rural barrios, as a symbol of the true spirit of the Filipino.
Fabián Cueto de la Rosa (1869-1938) is a genre painter and director of the University of the Philippines (U.P.), School of Fine Arts. De La Rosa was first introduced to the arts, through his aunt, Mariana de la Rosa; and he would later enroll at the Escuela de Bellas Artes y Dibujo under Agustin Saez. Unable to complete his studies, De La Rosa took private lessons under Lorenzo Guerrero and Miguel Zaragoza. He was later sent to Paris, under a scholarship, to study at the Academie Julien. Returning to the Philippines, De La Rosa would make a name in commercial design and painting, and eventually join the faculty of the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1910, who later became its director from 1927 until the death of his wife in 1937.Under De la Rosa, many of his students also became instructors at the School of Fine Arts, such as: Ambrocio Mijares Morales (1892-1974), Guillermo Tolentino, Irineo Miranda, and his nephews Fernando Amorsolo and Pablo Amorsolo. De la Rosa first took his studies at the Escuela Superior de Pintura, Grabado y Escultura under the directorship of Don Lorenzo Rocha y Ycaza (1837-1898). In 1904, De la Rosa won gold medal in the St. Louis Exposition, for his painting “Planting Rice”.
Although Fabian de la Rosa gained modest recognition among the populace, it was his nephew and student, Fernando Amorsolo, whose works would gain national recognitions, as his drawings and paintings were reprinted in calendars, magazines and even packaging. This romanticism of the Filipino spirit is best captured in Amorsolo’s paintings of the “Dalagang Bukid” (Country Lass), who represents the purity and dignity of the rural Filipino folk.
Most artists of the time did not devote their time to solely creating artworks, as many would work in commercial design and illustration jobs or in teaching. Fernando Amorsolo created several illustrations for several periodicals, including his “Mientras El Chino Progreso” (While the Chinese Progress), which illustrates how the local Chinese businessmen would easily succeed in the span of ten years, while his Filipino counterpart would still remain in the same socio-economic status. In this illustration, it can be clearly seen that the prejudice against the ethnic Chinese was common, which was perpetuated by the Spanish colonizers for almost four hundred years of occupation, even if the Chinese were trading and residing in the archipelago for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish.
Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (1892-1972) is one of the most important artists in the history of painting in the Philippines. Fernando, along with his brother Pablo, lost his father at an early age; and they were “adopted” by their uncle Fabián de la Rosa. Born in Paco, Manila, Amorsolo earned a degree from the Liceo de Manila Art School in 1909, before entering the U.P. School of Fine Arts and graduating in its first batch in 1914. Amorsolo’s 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. Amorsolo is also known for designing the label of the very popular gin, Ginebra San Miguel.
From the 1920s to the 1940s, Fernando Amorsolo and his students would dominate the art scene, with their romantic paintings of the Philippine countryside. His counterpart in sculpture was Guillermo Tolentino, whose grand monuments would still stand as hallmarks of Philippine art and history. In his 1927 portrait of Luisa Fernandez Marasigan-Barretto (1881-1941), Tolentino captures the pensive look of this beauty queen, after she took the title of Miss Philippines during the 1927 Manila Carnival.
Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890 -1976) is a classical sculptor who was named National Artist for the Visual Arts in 1973. Tolentino took his art studies at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, and later at the Ecole de Beux Arts. In 1926, he started teaching at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, and he would later be given the position of director. Tolentino sculpted the University of the Philippines’ most recognizable emblem, the “U.P. Oblation”, as well as the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City. He was also awarded the UNESCO Cultural Award in Sculpture in 1959, Araw ng Maynila Award in Sculpture in 1963, Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1967, President’s Medal of Merit in 1973, and the Diwa ng Lahi Award in 1972, before given the highest honor as National Artist.
Aside from colonial and classical artpieces in the Ambeth Ocampo collection, there are a few pieces of modern art, specifically by the National Artists Napoleon Abueva and Arturo Luz, as well as Romulo Galicano. These pieces do not reflect the pieces of antiquity that Ocampo had collected in his years of research on Philippine history, rather these works show his close ties with the visual art community, and his friendship with these artists. In this collection are a series of abstracted prints “Nude,” “Carnival Forms” and “Serenata” by Luz, as well as one of his signature modular sculpture, a sculptural bench by Abueva, and the painting “Contemplating the Bust” by Galicano. It is notable that Galicano’s work seems to evoke a connection with the sculpture of Guillermo Tolentino.
Arturo Rogerio Dimayuga 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 aspresident 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.
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Romulo Galicano (born 1945) is a Cebuano genre painter, who is noted for his brightly colored scenes of urban life. Galicano was first training in art by Martino Abellana, the “Dean of Cebuano painters.” In 1967, Galicano migrated to Manila, to take his collegiate art studies at the University of the East; and with a strong sense of the classical styles and techniques, he would study modernist styles under Florencio Concepcion (1933-2006) and under SYM (Sofronio Y. Mendoza, born 1936). As a student, Galicano joined with other artists, Emilio Aguilar Cruz, Andres Cristobal Cruz, Ibarra de la Rosa, and SYM, to form the Dimasalang Art Group in 1968, who were all figure painters known for their on-the-spot works. Aside from the Dimasalang group, Galicano was also active with the Taza de Oro Art Group, the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), the Sigliwa Group (1975), and more recently the American Society of Portrait Artists (2001), the Portrait Society of America (2004), and as an honorary member of the Pasig Art Club (2010). For his many accomplishments, Galicano has been honored with the 1998 Accademical knight for the Grand Cross by the Italian Ordine Accadimico Internazionale Vinzaglio, the 1998 Ordinary Accademician by the Italian Accademia Internazionale – Greci Marino Accademia Del Verbano, the 1999 12th Perlas Award on the Valuable Filipinos by Cebu City, the 2004 Honorary National Vice President for the Philippines by the Italian Ordine Accadimico Internazionale Vinzaglio, the 2005 First Congressional Awards in the Field of Arts from the 1st District of Cebu City, a 2005 Plaque of Recognition in the Field of Art by his hometown of Carcar, the 2005 Garbo sa Sugbu by the Province of Cebu, the 2008 Parangal Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan by the City of Manila, and the 2010 Artist of the Year by the GSIS Museo ng Sining.
Aside from the Ambeth Ocampo Bequest, there are many other substantial collections donated by other Ateneo de Manila for safe keeping. Among these several portraits of the art critic, Leonidas V. Benesa, which were donated to the Ateneo shortly after his death. These artworks will be the subject of the next article.