Nationalartist of the Philippines
Fernando Amorsolo (May 30, 1892 – April 24, 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 Amorsolo née Cueto. Amorsolo spent his childhood in Daet,Camarines Norte, where he studied in a public school and was tutored at home inSpanish language reading and writing. After his father’s death, Amorsolo and his familymoved to Manila to live with Don Fabian de la Rosa, his mother’s cousin anda 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 tencentavos each. Amorsolo’s brother, Pablo Amorsolo, was also a painter. Amorsolo’sfirst success as a young painter came in 1908, when his painting Leyendo el periódicotook second place at the Bazar Escolta, a contest organized bythe Asociacion Internacional de Artistas. Between 1909 and 1914, Amorsolo enrolledat the Art School of the Liceo de Manila, where he earned honors forhis paintings and drawings.
After graduating from the Liceo, he entered the University ofthe Philippines’ School of Fine Arts, where De la Rosa worked at the time. During college,Fernando Amorsolo’s primary influences were the Spanish people court painterDiego Velázquez, John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Claude Monet,Pierre-Auguste Renoir, but mostly his contemporary Spanish mastersJoaquín Sorolla Bastida and Ignacio Zuloaga. Amorsolo’s most notable work asa 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 illustrationsfor various Philippine publications, including Severino Reyes’ first novel inTagalog language, Parusa ng Diyos (“Punishment of God”), Iñigo Ed.Regalado’s Madaling Araw (“Dawn”), as well as illustrations for editions of the Pasion.Amorsolo graduated with medals from the University of the Philippines in 1914.
After graduating from the University of the Philippines, Amorsolo worked asa draftsman for the Bureau of Public Works, as a chief artist at the Pacific CommercialCompany, 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 commercialartist, Amorsolo was given a grant to study at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid,Spain by Filipino businessman Enrique Zobel de Ayala. During his seven monthsin Spain, Amorsolo sketched at museums and along the streets of Madrid,experimenting with the use of light and color.Through De Ayala’s grant, Amorsolowas also able to visit New York City, where he encountered postwar impressionismand cubism, which would be major influences on his work.
Amorsolo set up his own studio upon his return to Manila and painted prodigiouslyduring the 1920s and the 1930s. His “Rice Planting” (1922), which appeared onposters and tourist brochures, became one of the most popular images of theCommonwealth of the Philippines. Beginning in the 1930s, Amorsolo’s workwas exhibited widely both in the Philippines and abroad. His bright,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 andpeaceful scenes throughout his career.
Amorsolo was sought after by influential Filipinos including Luis Araneta, AntonioAraneta and Jorge B. Vargas. Amorsolo also became the favourite Philippine artistof United States officials and visitors to the country. Due to his popularity, Amorsolohad 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 didnot create exact replicas of his trademark themes; he recreated the paintingsby varying some elements.
His works later appeared on the cover and pages of children textbooks, in novels,in commercial designs, in cartoons and illustrations for the Philippine publicationssuch The Independent, Philippine Magazine, Telembang, El Renacimiento Filipino,and Excelsior. He was the director of the University of the Philippine’s Collegeof Fine Arts from 1938 to 1952.
During the 1950s until his death in 1972, Amorsolo averaged to finishing 10paintings 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 surgerythat did not impede him from drawing and painting. Two months after being confinedat the St. Luke’s Hospital in Manila, Amorsolo died of heart failure at the ageof 79 on April 24, 1972 .
Four days after his death, Amorsolo was honoured as the first National Artist in Paintingat the Cultural Center of the Philippines by then President Ferdinand Marcos.Amorsolo was a close friend of the Philippine sculptor Guillermo Tolentino,the creator of the Caloocan City monument to the patriot Andres Bonifacio.