Fernando Amorsolo y Cueto
(May 30, 1892 – April 26, 1972) is one of the
most important artists in the history of painting in the Philippines.
Amorsolo was a portraitist and painter of
rural Philippine landscapes. He is popularly known for his
craftsmanship and mastery in the use of light. Born in Paco, Manila, he earned a degree from the Liceo de Manila Art
School in 1909.
Fernando Amorsolo was born on May 30, 1892 in the Paco
neighborhood, when Manila was still under Spanish sovereignty, to
Pedro Amorsolo, a book keeper, and Bonifacia Cueto. Amorsolo spent
his childhood in Daet, Camarines Norte, where he studied in a
public school and was tutored at home in Spanish language|Spanish
reading and writing. "Fernando Amorsolo". Filipinos in
. Manila, Philippines: National Historical Institute.
Available for download though nhi.gov.ph
father’s death, Amorsolo and his family moved to Manila to live with
Don Fabian de la Rosa, his
mother's cousin and a Philippine painter.
At the age of 13,
Amorsolo became an apprentice to De la Rosa, who would eventually
become the advocate and guide to Amorsolo's painting career. During
this time, Amorsolo's mother embroidered
to earn money, while Amorsolo helped by selling water color
postcards to a local bookstore for 10 centavo
each. Amorsolo's brother, Pablo
, was also a
painter.fdtrtretertgfdAmorsolo's first success as a young painter
came in 1908, when his painting Leyendo el periódico
second place at the Bazar Escolta, a contest organized by the
Asociacion Internacional de Artistas. Between 1909 and 1914,
Amorsolo enrolled at the Art School of the Liceo de Manila, where
he earned honors for his paintings and drawings.
After graduating from the Liceo, he entered the University of the
Philippines' School of Fine Arts, where De la Rosa worked at the
time.During college, Fernando Amorsolo's primary influences were
the Spaniard|Spanish court painter Diego Velazquez, John Singer
Sargent, Anders Zorn, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, but
mostly his contemporary Spanish masters Joaquín Sorolla Bastida and
Ignacio Zuloaga. Amorsolo's most notable work as a student at the
Liceo was his painting of a young man and a young woman in a
garden, which won him the first prize in the art school exhibition
during his graduation year. To make money during school, Amorsolo
joined competitions and did illustrations for various Philippine
publications, including Severino Reyes’ first novel in Tagalog
, Parusa ng Diyos
Punishment), and Iñigo Ed. Regalado's Madaling Araw
(Dawn). He also illustrated for the religious Pasion
books. Amorsolo graduated with medals from the University of the
Philippines in 1914.
After graduating from the University of the Philippines, Amorsolo
worked as a draftsman
Bureau of Public Works, as a chief artist at the Pacific Commercial
Company, and as a part-time instructor at the University of the
Philippines (where he would work for 38 years). After three years as
an instructor and commercial artist, Amorsolo was given a grant to
study at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain by
Filipino businessman Enrique Zobel de
During his seven months in Spain, Amorsolo sketched
at museums and along the streets of Madrid, experimenting with the
use of light and color. Through De Ayala’s grant, Amorsolo was also
able to visit New
York, where he encountered postwar impressionism and
[[cubism, which would be major influences on his work.
Amorsolo set up his own studio upon his return to Manila and
painted prodigiously during the 1920s and the 1930s. His Rice
(1922), which appeared on posters and tourist
brochures, became one of the most popular images of the Commonwealth
in the 1930s, Amorsolo's work was exhibited widely both in the
Philippines and abroad. His optimistic, pastoral images set the
tone for Philippine painting before World War II. Except for his
darker World War II-era paintings, Amorsolo painted quiet and
peaceful scenes throughout his career.
Amorsolo was sought after by influential Filipinos including Luis
Araneta, Antonio Araneta and Jorge
. Amorsolo also became the favorite Philippine artist of
United States of ficials and visitors in the Philippines. Due to
his popularity, Amorsolo had to resort to photographing his works
and pasted and mounted them in an album. Prospective patrons could
then choose from this catalogue of his works. Amorsolo did not
create exact replicas of his trademark themes; he recreated the
paintings by varying some elements.
His works later appeared on the cover and pages of children's
textbooks, in novels, in commercial designs, in cartoons and
illustrations for the Philippine publications such The
, Philippine Magazine
El Renacimiento Filipino
, and Excelsior
. He was
the director of the University of the Philippine’s College of Fine
Arts from 1938 to 1952.
Image:Amorsolo memorial.jpg|thumb|left|200px|A memorial to Amorsolo
near his grave in Marikina CityDuring the 1950s until his death in
1972, Amorsolo averaged to finishing 10 paintings a month. However,
during his later years, diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, headaches,
dizziness and the death of two sons affected the execution of his
works. Amorsolo underwent a cataract operation when he was 70 years
old, a surgery that did not impede him from drawing and painting.
Two months after being confined at the St. Luke’s Hospital in
Manila, Amorsolo died of heart failure on April 24, 1972 at the age
Four days after his death, Amorsolo was conferred as the First
Philippine National Artist in Painting at the Cultural Center of
the Philippines by Ferdinand E. Marcos.
During his lifetime, Amorsolo was married twice and had 14
children. In 1916, he married Salud Jorge, with whom he had six
children. After Jorge’s death in 1931, Amorsolo married Maria del
Carmen Zaragoza, with whom he had eight more children. Among her
daughters are Sylvia Amorsolo Lazo and Luz Amorsolo. Five of
Amorsolo’s children became painters themselves. Amorsolo was a close
friend to the Philippine sculptor Guillermo Tolentino, the creator of the
City monument for Philippine hero Andres Bonifacio.
Style and techniques
Women and landscapes
A typical Filipina country woman as
portrayed by Amorsolo.
This painting also demonstrates his characteristic
Amorsolo is best known for his illuminated landscapes, which often
portrayed traditional Filipino customs, culture, fiestas and
occupations. His pastoral works presented "an imagined sense of
nationhood in counterpoint to American colonial rule" and were
important to the formation of Filipino national identity.
Amorsolo was educated in the classical tradition and aimed "to
achieve his Philippine version of the Greek ideal for the human
form." In his paintings of Filipina
, Amorsolo rejected Western ideals of beauty in favor of
Filipino ideals and was fond of basing the faces of his subjects on
members of his family. He said that the women he painted should
Amorsolo used natural light in his paintings and developed the
technique, which became his
artistic trademark and his greatest contribution to Philippine
painting. In a typical Amorsolo painting, figures are outlined
against a characteristic glow, and intense light on one part of the
canvas highlights nearby details. Philippine sunlight was a
constant feature of Amorsolo's work; he is believed to have painted
only one rainy-day scene.
was an incessant sketch artist,
often drawing sketches at his home, at Luneta Park, and in the countryside.
Sketch of a woman, whose unfinished
style is representative of Amorsolo's sketching.
He drew the people
he saw around him, from Filipino farmers to city-dwellers coping
with the Japanese
. Amorsolo's impressionistic tendencies, which may be
seen in his paintings as well, were at their height in his
sketches. His figures were not completely finished but were mere
"suggestions" of the image.
Historical paintings and portraits
Amorsolo also painted a series of historical paintings on
pre-Colonial and Spanish Colonization events. Amorsolo’s Making
of the Philippine Flag
particular, was widely reproduced. His The First Baptism in the
required numerous detailed sketches and colored
studies of its elements. These diverse elements were meticulously
and carefully set by the artist before being transferred to the
final canvas. For his pre-colonial and 16th-century depiction of
the Philippines, Amorsolo referred to the written accounts of
, other available
reading materials, and visual sources. He consulted with the
Philippine scholars of the time, H. Pardo de Tavera and Epifanio de los Santos
Amorsolo also painted oil portraits of Philippine General Emilio Aguinaldo
, Philippine presidents
, and other
prominent Filipino individuals.
World War II-era works
Detail from Fernando Amorsolo's 1945
Defense of a Filipina Woman's Honor
, which is
representative of Amorsolo's WWII-era paintings.
Here, a man defends his wife or daughter from being raped or
executed by an unseen Japanese soldier.
After the onset of World War II, Amorsolo's typical pastoral scenes
were replaced by the depictions of a war-torn nation. During the
Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II
, Amorsolo spent his days at his
home near the Japanese garrison
, where he
sketched war scenes from the house's windows or rooftop.
During the war, he documented the destruction of many landmarks in
Manila and the pain, tragedy and death experienced by Filipino
people, with his subjects including "women mourning their dead
husbands, files of people with pushcarts and makeshift bags leaving
a dark burning city tinged with red from fire and blood." Amorsolo
frequently portrayed the lives and suffering of Filipina women
during World War II. Other WWII-era paintings by Amorsolo include a
portrait in absentia
of General Douglas MacArthur
as well as
self-portraits and paintings of Japanese occupation soldiers.
Amorsolo’s wartime paintings were exhibited at the Malacañang Presidential Palace.
Amorsolo's supporters consider his portrayals of the countryside as
"the true reflections of the Filipino Soul."
Amorsolo has been accused, however, of succumbing to commercialism
and merely producing souvenir paintings for American soldiers.
Critic Francisco Arcellana
in 1948 that Amorsolo's paintings "have nothing to say" and that
they were not hard to understand because "there is nothing to
understand." Critics have criticized Amorsolo's portraits of
Philippine Commonwealth personalities, his large, mid-career
anecdotal works, and his large historical paintings. Of the latter,
critics have said that his "artistic temperament was simply not
suited to generating the sense of dramatic tension necessary for
Another critic, however, while noting that most of Amorsolo's
estimated ten thousand works were not worthy of his talent, argues
that Amorsolo's oeuvre should nonetheless be judged by his best
works instead of his worst. Amorsolo's small landscapes, especially
those of his early career, have been judged as his best works,
"hold[ing] well together plastically." Amorsolo may "be considered
a master of the Philippine landscape as landscape, even outranking
who also did some
Philippine landscapes of the same measurements."
Amorsolo's grave in Marikina
The volume of paintings, sketches and studies of Amorsolo is
believed to have reached more than 10,000 pieces. Amorsolo was an
important influence on contemporary Filipino art and artists, even
beyond the so-called "Amorsolo school." Amorsolo's influence can be
seen in many landscape paintings by Filipino artists, including
early landscape paintings by abstract painter Federico Aguilar Alcuaz
In 2003, Amorsolo's children founded the Fernando C. Amorsolo Art
Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Fernando Amorsolo’s
legacy, promoting his style and vision, and preserving a national
heritage through the conservation and promotion of his works.
Amorsolo paintings in the art market
At a 2001
auction in Wellesley, Massachusetts, two original 1950s paintings by Amorsolo, The
Cockfight and Resting Under the Trees, were bought by
a New Jersey collector for $36,000 and $31,500,
During a 2002 episode of Antiques Roadshow
, a Sotheby
's antiques appraiser estimated that an
attendee's signed 1945 rural landscape painting by Amorsolo could
fetch between $30,000 and $50,000 at auction. At a 1996 Christie's
auction, Amorsolo's The Marketplace
Major works by Amorsolo include:
- Afternoon Meal of the Workers (Noonday Meal of the
Rice Workers) (1939)
- Assassination of Governor Bustamante
- The Bombing of the Intendencia (1942)
- The Building of Intramuros
- Burning of the Idol
- The Burning of Manila (1946)
- El Ciego (1928)
- The Conversion of the Filipinos (1931)
- Corner of Hell
- Dalagang Bukid (1936)
- Defense of a Filipina Woman’s Honor (1945)
- La destruccion de Manila por los salvajes japoneses
(The Destruction of Manila by the Savage Japanese)
- Early Filipino State Wedding
- Early Sulu Wedding
- The Explosion (1944)
- The First Baptism in the Philippines
- The First Mass in the Philippines
- Maiden in a Stream (1921)
- Making of the Philippine Flag
- The Mestiza (1943)
- My Wife, Salud (1920)
- One Casualty
- Our Lady of Light (1950)
- Planting Rice (1946)
- Princess Urduja
- The Rape of Manila (1942)
- Rice Planting (1922)
- Sale of Panay
- Sunday Morning Going To Town (1958)
- El Violinista (The Violinist)
Awards and achievements
- 1908 – 2nd Prize, Bazar Escolta (Asocacion Internacional de
Artistas), for Levendo Periodico
- 1922 – 1st Prize, Commercial and Industrial Fair in the Manila
- 1929 (1939?) – 1st Prize, New York’s World Fair, for
Afternoon Meal of Rice Workers (also known as Noonday
Meal of the Rice Workers)
- 1940 – Outstanding University of the Philippines Alumnus
– Gold Medal, UNESCO National
- 1961 – Rizal Pro Patria Award
- 1961 – Honorary Doctorate in the Humanities, from the Far Eastern University
- 1963 – Diploma of Merit from the University of the
- 1963 – Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award, from
the City of Manila
- 1963 – Republic Cultural Heritage Award
- 1972 – Gawad CCP para sa Sining, from the Cultural
Center of the Philippines
In 1972, Fernando Amorsolo became the first Filipino to be
distinguished as the Philippine's National
in Painting. He was named as the “Grand Old Man of
Philippine Art” during the inauguration
of the Manila Hilton
’s art center,
where his paintings were exhibited on January 23, 1969.
the Philippines, his exhibitions were held in Belgium, at the Exposicion de Panama in 1914, at
a one-man show at the Grand Central Gallery in New York City in
1925, and at the National Museum in
Herran on November 6, 1948. During the 1931 Paris Exposition,
Amorsolo exhibited one of his anecdotal paintings, The
Conversion of the Filipinos.
Amorsolo's entries at the
in Panama were a portrait of U.S. President
Woodrow Wilson and the piece La Muerte de Socrates
. At the
1948 National Museum in Herran, Amorsolo exhibition was sponsored
by the Art Association of the Philippines. In 1950, Amorsolo
exhibited two more historical paintings, Faith Among the
Ruins and Baptism of Rajah Humabon at the Missionary
Art Exhibit in Rome.
1979, Fernando Amorsolo's legacy as a painter was celebrated
through an exhibition of his works at the Art Center of the Manila
Hilton. His art was also featured in a 2007 exhibition in
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