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Fernando

Amorsolo y
Cueto (18921972),
Philippines'
first National
Artist in
Painting
(1972), the socalled "Grand
Old Man of Philippine Art", Amorsolo earned a degree from the Liceo de Manila Art
School in 1909 and entered the University of the Philippines' (UP) School of Fine
Arts. He graduated with honors from the UP in 1914 and got study grant in Madrid,
Spain. He was also able to visit New York, where he encountered postwar
impressionism and cubism, which would be major influences on his work. The
following are just a few of Amorsolo's work.

Saturday Volcano Art: Fernando Amorsolo, Planting Rice with Mayon Volcano (1949)
The painter Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972) was a dominant figure in the visual arts
of the Philippines during the decades before the Second World War and into the
post-war period. His oeuvre is characterized by scenes of the Filipino countryside,
harmoniously composed and richly coloured, saturated with bright sunlight and
populated by beautiful, happy people: it is an art of beauty, contentment, peace
and plenty which perhaps explains its enduring popularity in the Philippines to this
day.

Amorsolo was committed to two fundamental ideas in his art: first, a classical notion of idealism,
in which artistic truth was found through harmony, balance and beauty, and second a
conservative concept of Filipino national character as rooted in rural communities and the cycles
of village life. The two come together in pastoral scenes such as Planting Rice with Mayon
Volcano, painted in 1949. Here, happy Filipino villagers in their bright clothes and straw hats
work together amid a green and sunlit landscape of plenty. Behind them, releasing a peaceful
plume of steam, rises the beautifully symmetrical cone of Mayon stratovolcano. It is the ash
erupted by the volcano over its highly-active history that has made the surrounding landscape
fertile, and the tranquil cone appears here to be a beneficial spirit of the earth standing guardian
over the villagers and their crops. Mayons eruptions can be very destructive (as in the violent
eruption of 1947, not long before this picture was painted, when pyroclastic flows and lahars
brought widespread destruction and fatalities) but here the relationship between the volcano and
the surrounding landscape is depicted as a positive, fruitful and harmonious one. Mayon is a
celebrated symbol of the Philippines, and its presence in Amorsolos painting emphasizes his
wish to represent the spirit of the nation on canvas.
Planting Rice with Mayon Volcano is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
For all Saturday volcano art articles: Saturday volcano art The Volcanism Blog.
Further reading
Fernando C. Amorsolo Art Foundation
Fernando Amorsolo works at Frazer Fine Arts
The National Artists of the Philippines: Fernando C. Amorsolo
Alice G. Guillermo, Image to Meaning: Essays on Philippine Art (Manila: Ateneo de Manila
University Press, 2001)
Paul A. Rodell, Culture and Customs of the Philippines (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002)

A Portrait of the Philippines - Fernando Amorsolo's Paintings


If I had to choose a favorite painter, it would without a doubt have to be Fernando
Amorsolo. The reason, of course, lies in the nature of his paintings--specifically, how he
paints and also what he paints.
Although I certainly appreciate the contemporary Filipino lifestyle and the modern Pinoy
culture, it is the old provincial and traditional Philippines that my heart is most fond of. And it
is this vision of the Philippines that Fernando Amorsolo portrays in his works. In fact, he is so
brilliant at his craft that whenever I look at his paintings, he makes me feel so nostalgic that
my heart weeps from such an overwhelming longing to return to those beautiful days.
Indeed, Amorsolo knows the original spirit of the Philippines, as is exhibited by the scenes he
depicts. A summary of his art would be idyllic and idealistic settings of pastoral Philippines.
Yet, what sets him apart and makes him unique from other pastoral artists is his amazing
use of light.
Amorsolo is a master of color and natural light. The bright sun-drenched countryside that
pervades most of his paintings is one of the main reasons that makes his artwork so
appealing. Just from looking at his paintings, one can almost feel the heat from the glorious
sunshine. And his masterful usage of light allows one to sense the time of day and hence,
also experience the mood.
Through his paintings, one witnesses the simplistic beauty and pure innocence that makes
the traditional and provincial Philippines so magnificent. Yet, Amorsolo is also able to convey
the same perception for the culture, people, and especially women of the Philippines.
Though nothing can justly substitute a comprehensive gallery look at his whole art
collection, I think he just may have captured all essences of these aspects in his single
untitled painting (shown above right) now known as Palay Maiden (1920), which portrays a
provincial Filipina beauty or dalagang bukid during a rice harvest and dressed in and
enveloped by the colors of the Philippine flag (the yellow can be interpreted to be
represented by the sunlight or the rice stalks).
Perhaps some might say that this vision of the Philippines is long gone and can never be
brought back. But I don't think so. Because it lives in the minds and hearts of individuals like
myself--which is why, even though Amorsolo has long passed away, I still speak of him, as
well as the olden days of the Philippines, like they still exist to this very day.

First Successful Painting Masterpiece


In fact, his first successful work art happened in 1908. His painting entitled, Leyendo El
Periodico, bagged the second place in an art painting contest dubbed as Bazar Escolta. This
was an art competition, organized by the Asociacion Internacional de Artistas. To hone his
painting skills with utmost perfection, Fernando Amorsolo decided to enroll at the Art School
of Liceo, Manila. Conversely, Amorsolo had proven that poverty is not a hindrance to be an
achiever. In the said learning institution, he was bestowed the highest honors for art excellence;
for his enigmatic paintings and drawings respectively.

Collegiate Years and His Painting Inspirations


After his momentous graduation in Liceo, Amorsolo studied at the University of the Philippines
School of Fine Arts. During his collegiate years, Amorsolo was greatly influenced by other
painting legends such as Diego Velasquez, John Singer Sargeant and Claude Monet, to name a
few. As a student, his notable painting which had been written in the pages of Philippine history
was about a young man and a woman in a beautiful garden. Due to his impressive and prolific
presentation of the subject, the brilliant and amateur painter from Camarines Norte won the first
prize in their art school exhibition. In order to earn some money while studying, Fernando
Amorsolo joined numerous painting competitions, for different publications in the Philippines.
Among them were: the best-selling novel of Severino Reyes in Filipino entitled, Parusa Ng
Diyos, Inigo Ed. Regalados Madaling Araw, and illustrations for the Pasion.

Man with a Chicken, 1938, Fernando Amorsolo

Fernando Amorsolo
Self-portrait (detail), 1942
Virtually every nation on earth has an individual they term their "National Artist." Sometimes
there's a bit of disagreement as to which of several artists it might be but... The bigger the nation,
the longer its cultural history, the more vibrant its art world, the more likely the disagreement as
to which artist deserves such a title. In England, for instance, a reasonable argument could be
made in favor of Turner, Constable, Gainsborough, even Francis Bacon. In France, where the art
history is still longer, names such as David, Ingres, Manet, Monet, or Picasso (even though he
was Spanish) might be mentioned. American art historians might propose Stuart, Church,
Sargent, Rockwell, or Warhol, as candidates for such an honor. In a small country, such as the
island nation of the Philippines, however, there would be general agreement. That man would be
Fernando Amorsolo.

Bathing Girls, Fernando Amorsolo. Most of the artist's nudes were neither titled or
dated.
The artist knew a thing or two about pretty girls. He was married twice and had a total of
fourteen kids, many of them pretty girls. Five of his children went on to become artists
themselves. With a growing family such as that to support, Amorsolo also knew how to turn a
buck. As far back as about 1919 he was making and selling lithographs of pretty nude girls, all of
which were...pretty nude (right). American GIs loved them. They were a staple of his "art for
sale" portfolio virtually all his life. Yet such works from Amorsolo's brush were seldom overtly
erotic; they weren't far removed from the calendar pin-up girls of the time. Usually, they were
simply bathing in a picturesque stream (above). Amorsolo painted an astounding 10,000
paintings in his lifetime, for many years turning out as many as ten a week. Some critics have
cast a negative light on this "commercial" aspect of Amorsolo's work, but with fourteen hungry
mouths to feed...

The Courtesan (after Eisen) (1887)


Artwork description & Analysis: While in Paris, Van Gogh was exposed to a myriad of artistic
styles, including the Japanese woodblock print, or "ukiyo-e." These prints were only made
available in the West in the mid-nineteenth century. Van Gogh collected works by Japanese
ukiyo-e masters like Hiroshige and Hokusai and claimed these works were as important as works
by European artists, like Rubens and Rembrandt. Van Gogh was inspired to create this particular
painting by a reproduction of a print by Keisai Eisen that appeared on the May 1886 cover of the
magazine Paris Illustr. Van Gogh enlarges Eisen's image of the courtesan, placing her in a
contrasting, golden background bordered by a lush water garden based on the landscapes of other
prints he owned. This particular garden is populated by frogs and cranes, both of which were
illusions to prostitutes in nineteenth-century French slang. While the stylistic features exhibited
in this painting, in particular the strong, dark outlines and bright swaths of color, came to define
Van Gogh's mature style, he also made the work his own. By working in paint rather than a
woodblock print, Van Gogh was able to soften the work, relying on visible brushstrokes to lend
dimension to the figure and her surroundings as well as creating a dynamic tension across the
surface not present in the original prints.
Oil on canvas - Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Cafe Terrace At

Night (1888)

Artwork
description & Analysis: Cafe Terrace at Night
was one of the
first scenes Van Gogh painted during his stay in
Arles and the first
painting where he used a nocturnal background.
Using contrasting
colors and tones, Van Gogh achieved a luminous
surface that
pulses with an interior light, almost in defiance of
the darkening sky.
The lines of composition all point to the center of
the work drawing
the eye along the pavement as if the viewer is
strolling the
cobblestone streets. The cafe still exists today and
is a "mecca" for
Van Gogh fans visiting the south of France.
Describing this
painting in a letter to his sister he wrote, "Here
you have a night
painting without black, with nothing but beautiful
blue and violet
and green and in this surrounding the illuminated
area colors itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night
right on the spot..." Painted on the street at night, Van Gogh recreated the setting directly from
his observations, a practice inherited from the Impressionists. However, unlike the
Impressionists, he did not record the scene merely as his eye observed it, but imbued the image
with a spiritual and psychological tone that echoed his individual and personal reaction. The
brushstrokes vibrate with the sense of excitement and pleasure Van Gogh experienced while
painting this work.
Oil on canvas - Krller-Muller Museum, Otterlo

The Potato Eaters (1885)


Artwork description & Analysis: This early canvas is considered Van Gogh's first masterpiece.
Painted while living among the peasants and laborers in Nuenen in the Netherlands, Van Gogh
strove to depict the people and their lives truthfully. Rendering the scene in a dull palette, he
echoed the drab living conditions of the peasants and used ugly models to further iterate the
effects manual labor had upon these workers. This effect is heightened by his use of loose
brushstrokes to describe the faces and hands of the peasants as they huddle around the singular,
small lantern, eating their meager meal of potatoes. Despite the evocative nature of the scene, the
painting was not considered successful until after Van Gogh's death. At the time this work was
painted, the Impressionists had dominated the Parisian avant-garde for over a decade with their
light palettes. It is not surprising that Van Gogh's brother, Theo, found it impossible to sell
paintings from this period in his brother's career. However, this work not only demonstrates Van
Gogh's commitment to rendering emotionally and spiritually laden scenes in his art, but also
established ideas that Van Gogh followed throughout his career.
Oil on canvas - The Van Gogh Museum

PaulGachet

Ferdinand
(1890)

Artwork
description
& Analysis: Dr.
Gachet was
the
homeopathic
physician that
treated Van
Gogh after he
was released
from SaintRemy. In the
doctor, the
artist found a
personal
connection,
writing to his
sister, "I have
found a true
friend in Dr.
Gachet,
something
like another
brother, so
much do we
resemble each
other physically and also mentally." Van Gogh depicts Gachet seated at a red table, with two
yellow books and foxglove in a vase near his elbow. The doctor gazes past the viewer, his eyes
communicating a sense of inner sadness that reflects not only the doctor's state of mind, but Van
Gogh's as well. Van Gogh focused the viewer's attention on the depiction of the doctor's
expression by surrounding his face with the subtly varied blues of his jacket and the hills of the
background. Van Gogh wrote to Gauguin that he desired to create a truly modern portrait, one
that captured the "the heartbroken expression of our time." Rendering Gachet's expression
through a blend of melancholy and gentility, Van Gogh created a portrait that has resonated with
viewers since its creation. A recent owner, Ryoei Saito, even claimed he planned to have the
painting cremated with him after his death, as he was so moved by the image. The intensity of
emotion that Van Gogh poured into each brushstroke is what has made his work so compelling to
viewers over the decades, inspiring countless artists and individuals.
Oil on canvas - Private Collection