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Amazing Philippine National Fine Arts Collection | 17th to early 20th Century Painting by Filipino Artists

This article features the 17th to early 20th century art from the National Fine Arts Collection of the Philippines.

Oil on canvas painting entitled “Tirad Pass” (1930) by Ramon Peralta (1877-1940)

Oil on canvas painting entitled “Tirad Pass” (1930) by Ramon Peralta (1877-1940)

This painting is part of a series Peralta created imagining the Battle of Tirad Pass on December 2, 1899. During the battle, 60 Filipino soldiers under General Gregorio del Pilar fought against 300 American soldiers at the Tirad Pass, a mountain gap in the Cordillera Mountains in Northern Luzon, to enable President Emilio Aguinaldo to flee and retreat towards the north. Despite being outmanned, Del Pilar and his troop fought exclaiming “This is the most glorious moment in our lives, we are fighting for our motherland.” Unfortunately, the young and brave general perished in the battle. 

Peralta’s “Tirad Pass” features a scene after the encounter between the Filipino and American soldiers. If you look closely at the painting, you will notice a cross and a stone that marks the site where del Pilar was killed. He was left unburied for three days until the American officer Lieutenant Dennis Quinlan ordered his burial in honor of his heroism and marked his grave with a headstone with the inscription “General Gregorio del Pilar, killed at the Battle of Tirad Pass, December 2, 1899, Commanding Aguinaldo’s rearguard, an officer and a gentleman.”

Ramon Peralta, born in La Union in 1877, was one of the leading scenographic painters of his time. He studied at the Escuela Superior de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado, where he received awards and recognitions in annual art competitions. He taught at the Centro de Artistas and then later at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Fine Arts in 1918. Among his students were Vicente Manansala (1910-1981), who would later become a National Artist, and Martino Abellana (1914-1988). Peralta also garnered international awards including Bronze medals at the St. Louis Universal Exposition of 1904. 

As a scenographic painter, he painted many decorations for the theater guilds in UP. He was the main stage decorator of the Grand Manila Carnival held yearly before World War II. He is known for his mural “Alma Mater”, a work he created in the building of UP Manila found along Padre Faura Street, and his series of works on Tirad Pass and the Pasig River. 

This particular painting of the Tirad Pass is currently on view at the 2nd Floor Northwest Wing Hallway Gallery of the National Museum of Fine Arts, along with other landscape and seascape paintings by notable artists from the National Fine Arts Collection. 



Text by NMP FAD

Photo by Bengy Toda

© National Museum of the Philippines (2021)

“Normandie” an oil on panel work by Juan Luna

“Normandie” is an oil on panel work by Juan Luna

This painting, entitled “Normandie” is an oil on panel work made around 1890 when Luna lived in Paris. Around this time, Luna’s works focused on common people and social realities, hence the period when he painted rural landscapes and sceneries, and people he met on streets. His palette was also more colorful as it was at the tail-end of Impressionism's popularity among European artists and Luna was still drawn to it even when he was painting in the academic convention of predominantly brown schemes in the 1880s.

“Normandie” is Luna’s portrayal of a village in Normandy (its  Anglicized name), France's historical coastal province popular for its beaches amid cliffs. It is among a series of paintings Luna created during his visits in the popular resort, revealing the artist’s spontaneous draftsmanship and capturing every day, more intimate and simpler subjects and fleeting moments.

Luna was born in Badoc, Ilocos Norte in 1857. His education in the arts began at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he excelled in painting and drawing, and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree. He also took drawing lessons under Lorenzo Guerrero who encouraged him to travel to Madrid to pursue further studies at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Spain. There, he befriended Spanish painter Alejo Vera who later became his mentor and exposed him to Renaissance art in Rome.


From then on, Luna became deeply interested in classical painting and made art that he entered in Exposicion Nacional de Bellas Artes, a prestigious competition in Madrid that won him the first gold medal for his painting Spoliarium in 1884. He settled in Paris in 1886, after marrying Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera. This period also saw a distinct shift in his painting style, influenced by artists he met and whose works he saw in various museums and galleries in Paris. Tragically, in 892, he shot and killed his wife and mother-in-law in a fit of jealous rage. Although tried and imprisoned for 5 months, he was pardoned for temporary insanity. He then moved to Madrid with his son, Andres, where he continued his work as an artist.

On Luna’s return to the Philippines, he passed away in Hong Kong on December 7, 1899.

This particular painting of Juan Luna is currently on display at the Far East Bank and Trust Company-Andres and Grace Luna de San Pedro Memorial Hall in the National Museum of Fine Arts. This gallery is dedicated to the works by Juan Luna and his contemporary and friend, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. 



Text by NMP FAD

Photo by Bengy Toda III

© National Museum of the Philippines (2021)

Telesforo Sucgang’s “Vendedor de Periodicos”, an oil on wood created in 1900

Telesforo Sucgang’s “Vendedor de Periodicos”, an oil on wood created in 1900

“Vendedor de Periodicos” is a genre painting. This type of painting features subject matter that depicts scenes from everyday life of ordinary people while at work or during recreation. Genre painting emerged in the 17th century, particularly in Holland, during the Baroque Era in Europe. At that time, genre painting featured typical subjects such as scenes of peasant life rendered in small canvas. It was one of the five subjects for painting established in the 17th century, focusing on history, portrait, landscape, genre (scenes of everyday life), and still life.

This painting by Telesforo Sucgang (1855-1916) depicts a newspaper boy in his usual morning delivery. He is portrayed here carrying a bunch of newspapers tucked under his right arm as he walks to his destination. When this painting was created in 1900, the popular subject matter then were landscapes and genre paintings since the art patrons at that time of early colonial rule of the US, preferred this style who wanted a visual depiction as souvenir of the then exotic views. This was in contrast with what was in demand in the preceding century such as Christian art commissioned in large numbers by the Spanish friars and “miniaturismo” portraits representing and subscribed to by the ilustrado or new economic elite. 

Telesforo Sucgang was an Aklanon painter, sculptor, musical composer, and educator. He was born in Banga, Capiz, now part of Aklan, on January 5, 1855. At the age of twelve, he enrolled at the College of San Jose where he also took up music lessons and later transferred to San Juan de Letran where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. He continued his education at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura under Lorenzo Rocha and Agustin Saez. Among his classmates were Jose Rizal and Glicerio Janson who also joined him in the Academia’s first sculpture class. 

The fruits of his artistic training were recognized when he earned a prize for his entry, “Bust of Cardinal Cisneros”, in a literary-artistic contest sponsored by Liceo Artistico-Literario in 1879. Sucgang topped the Spanish government examination for international study grant in 1884. He went to Madrid as a government pensionado and studied art for four years together with fellow artist Esteban Villanueva y Vinarao (1859-1920). There he reunited with his friend Jose Rizal and met fellow artists Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Juan Luna. 

While in Madrid, he produced a number of large historical paintings such as “Estamos Salvados” (1887), “La Llegada del Correo Español en la Bahia de Manila” (1887), “El Desembarco de Magallanes” or “The First Mass in the Philippines” (1888), and “La Llegada de Legazpi y Urdaneta” (1888). 

He remained in Spain for another five years, still as a government pensionado, and there created several portraits, one of which is a portrait of national hero Jose Rizal in 1891 which is described as “one of the finest and truest likeness of Rizal”. In 1893, he returned to Manila and was appointed at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Iloilo where he taught modelling and engraving. In 1898, Sucgang was appointed captain and later commandant of the military administration in Santa Barbara, Iloilo under General Martin Delgado. Eventually when the American colonial government was established, Sucgang became active in the field of education. He founded several schools in Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, and Manila. 

Sucgang passed away on December 16, 1916.



Text by NMP FAD

Photo by Bengy Toda

© National Museum of the Philippines (2021)

Paintings of Félix Resurrección Hidalgo entitled “Amanecer en Bretagne” (Sunrise in Brittany) and “Atardecer en Bretagne” (Sunset in Brittany) 

Paintings of Félix Resurrección Hidalgo entitled “Amanecer en Bretagne” (Sunrise in Brittany) and “Atardecer en Bretagne” (Sunset in Brittany)

Brittany is a region in France known for its beaches, forests, and century-old structures. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the artist moved to France where he painted these small but compelling work. Like many artists employing Impressionist techniques, Hidalgo was drawn to depicting sunlight and its effect on landscapes by observing luminosity at different times of day.

Paintings of Félix Resurrección Hidalgo entitled “Amanecer en Bretagne” (Sunrise in Brittany) and “Atardecer en Bretagne” (Sunset in Brittany)

His artistic sensibilities may have been shaped by his surroundings growing up in Manila where he was born on February 21, 1855. His parents Eduardo Resurrección Hidalgo and Maria Barbara Padilla were part of the local elite in the commercial district of Binondo where art and photography studios were located. His father was a lawyer, while his mother was a businesswoman and the daughter of Narciso Padilla, a lawyer and shipping magnate. Having come from a family of lawyers from both sides, Hidalgo may have been pressured to study law. He earned his Bachelor of Civil Law degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1871.

Paintings of Félix Resurrección Hidalgo entitled “Amanecer en Bretagne” (Sunrise in Brittany) and “Atardecer en Bretagne” (Sunset in Brittany)


Eventually he pursued his artistic calling and studied at the Academy of Drawing and Painting on Calle del Cabildo in Intramuros for the next seven years. In 1879, Hidalgo won a scholarship to take up art studies in Spain at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. His outstanding grades in Spain allowed him to stay in Madrid for another four years.

His Las Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho (The Christian virgins Exposed to the Populace), was awarded the ninth silver medal at the 1884 Exposición General de Bellas Artes in Madrid while his friend and contemporary, Juan Luna, won the gold prize. Although Hidalgo was an acquaintance and inspiration for members of the Philippine reform movement which included José Rizal, Mariano Ponce and Marcelo del Pilar, among others, he has no direct link to it.

Hidalgo won several honors during his lifetime. Among his well known work was La Barca de Aqueronte that won a silver prize at the 1889 Paris Exposition. Viewers may see its study (on loan from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) in the same gallery as the two featured landscape paintings. His El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante won a gold medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in the US. Viewers may find this in the Spoliarium Hall., also at the NMFA. 

For almost three decades, Hidalgo lived and worked in Paris from 1887, returning only once to the Philippines in 1911. He died in Spain at the age of 58 on March 13, 1913. His remains are buried in the family mausoleum in the Manila North Cemetery.



Text and photos by NMP FAD

© National Museum of the Philippines (2021)

La Batalla de Lepanto or The Battle of Lepanto by Juan Luna y Novicio (1857- 1899)

La Batalla de Lepanto or The Battle of Lepanto by Juan Luna y Novicio (1857- 1899)

This study is an oil on panel created between 1886 to 1887. Artists usually prepare a study in the form of a drawing or painting as a practice piece and to resolve an artistic challenge in composition, technique or approach. The master painter is among unique artists who creates studies in oil. He prepared several studies of La Batalla de Lepanto when he was commissioned by King Alfonso XII of Spain after the 1884 Madrid Art Exposition in which he earned a gold medal for Spoliarium.

King Alfonso XII believed that Luna deserved the most prestigious Prize of Honor in the 1884 competition, which was denied to him. The commission of La Batalla de Lepanto was the Spanish King’s way of showing his support to the young painter who demonstrated great artistic potential. The painting was finished in 1887 and unveiled by the King’s widow, Queen Regent Maria Cristina, at the Senate Conference Hall in Madrid where it is still located. 

This particular study depicts the confrontation between two Spanish soldiers against an Ottoman Turk soldier which is located at the bottom center region of the actual painting. La Batalla de Lepanto depicts the war in 1571 between the Holy League of Catholic states and the Ottoman Empire during the largest naval battle in Western history. 

Juan Luna was born on October 24, 1857 in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. When his family moved to Manila, he studied at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, Escuela Nautica de Manila, and Academia de Dibujo y Pintura. One of his teachers in the Academia, artist Lorenzo Guerrero, saw his ability and influenced him to continue his studies in Madrid. Luna took his advice and enrolled in Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Spain. While studying, he took private lessons under Spanish artist Alejo Vera who was deeply impressed by his skills. He then left the Escuela and worked with Vera to undertake commissions in Rome, where he was exposed to the art of Renaissance painters. 

The opening of the Madrid Art Exposition in 1878 encouraged him to develop his skills in painting. He later exhibited his paintings in the 1881 Exposition, where he earned a silver medal for La Muerte de Cleopatra. He also received a scholarship from the Ayuntamiento in Manila and in return produced paintings for the institution including El Pacto de Sangre which is now at the Malacañang Palace. 

His achievement in the 1884 Exposition, earning a gold medal for his work Spoliarium, was a significant event in Philippine art history and for his fellow reformists in Spain. Victorious with the award, he returned to the Philippines in 1886 but he and his brother Antonio were imprisoned for their involvement in the Katipunan. Having been pardoned by the Spanish courts in 1887, he traveled back to Spain and finished La Batalla de Lepanto for King Alfonso XII. 

In the same year, he participated in Madrid Exposition and won medals for his paintings La Batalla de Lepanto and Rendicion de Granada. In 1892, while residing in Paris, France, the artist infamously shot and killed his wife Paz Pardo de Tavera and mother-in-law Juliana Gorricho Pardo de Tavera in a fit of jealous rage. He also wounded his brother-in-law Felix Pardo de Tavera. The French court acquitted him of murder charges after just a few months in prison, attributing his acts to a crime of passion and temporary insanity. 

Luna returned to the Philippines in 1898 and traveled to Paris and Washington D.C. as part of the diplomatic delegation of the Philippine government until 1899. He passed away on December 7, 1899, during his trip to Hong Kong. 

“Rural Scene” oil painting by Ricarte Puruganan (1912-1998)

“Rural Scene” oil painting by Ricarte Puruganan (1912-1998)

This oil on canvas painting completed in 1938 depicts a typical landscape rural scene with a farmer, perhaps on his way home after a long day at the field while guiding his carabao pulling a full sled on a dirt road.  This painting was among Puruganan’s early works that show expressive compositions rendered in vibrant colors attributed to the Impressionists, using bold strokes of thick impasto for which he was known. Identified by National Artist Victorio Edades as one of the Thirteen Moderns, Puruganan preferred fusing Philippine folk art themes with modernist techniques. 

Puruganan was born first of the six children of Honorio S. Puruganan, a musician, composer, poet, and painter, and Victoria M. Puruganan, a school teacher, on November 20, 1912, in Dingras, Ilocos Norte where he also grew up. In 1936, he finished his Diploma course in Painting from the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts.  He acquired his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Santo Tomas in 1941 and later joined its Faculty of Fine Arts. With National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Galo Ocampo, and Severino Fabie, he helped established its fine arts program.  

Puruganan had been an award-winning artist in local and international art competitions. He was also active in sculpting, doing architecture work, and landscaping in the Ilocos region.  A prolific artist and art teacher throughout his career, he died on January 15, 1998.

This painting is on display at the Northwest Wing Hallway Gallery, Second Floor of the National Museum of Fine Arts.

“Nipa Hut on Stilts” (1952), oil on canvas by Neo-realist painter Romeo V. Tabuena

Romeo V. Tabuena (1921-2015) was one of the members of the Neo-realist school in the country. This postwar group of artists advocated a style that is representational in form but more open to various degrees of abstraction. Influenced by western modern movements, they adopted Philippine themes as subject such as market, street, urban, and rural scenes, as well as local images like jeepneys, nipa huts, and barong-barong. Other members of Neo-realist school included National Artists Vicente Manansala, H.R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, and Arturo Luz, as well as Victor Oteyza, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, and Nena Saguil.

“Nipa Hut on Stilts” (1952), oil on canvas by Neo-realist painter Romeo V. Tabuena

The neo-realism style is represented in Tabuena’s work entiled “Nipa Hut on Stilts” (1952), oil on canvas, a gift of Benito Legarda, Jr. in memory of Herbert and Trudl Zipper. It is exhibited at the National Museum of Fine Arts, part of the Pillars of Philippine Modernism exhibition. This painting was created three years before Tabuena permanently moved to Mexico.


Tabuena was born on August 22, 1921 in Iloilo City. He studied architecture at the Mapúa Institute of Technology and painting at the University of the Philippines. During the postwar years, he was one of the early modernists who became known for his watercolor works of rural scenes. He won awards at the Art Association of the Philippines Annual Competition with his works “Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)”, second place, in 1949, and “Black Christ”, honorable mention, in 1952. 

His eagerness to develop his skills urged him to study at the Art Students League of New York in 1952. This was followed by further studies at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris in 1954. Enthralled by his visit to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, an artist haven, he decided to migrate in 1955. Despite living abroad, he remained connected with the Philippine art scene by participating in exhibitions in Manila in 1959, 1973, and 1981, among others. He was selected as the Philippine delegate to the 8th São Paolo Biennale in Brazil in 1965. In 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit, years before he passed away on October 15, 2015.

“Elephants in Jardin Botanico” by Teodoro P. Buenaventura (1863-1950)

Elephants in Jardin Botanico painting by Teodoro P. Buenaventura

Completed in 1924, this painting was registered as a public collection in 1948, depicting a group of elephants enjoying their bath in the botanical garden. It highlights the artist’s mastery of realism. 

In 1858, Spanish Governor-General Fernando de Norzagaray issued a decree establishing Jardin Botanico located in the east of Intramuros and approximately five hectares. Sebastian Vidal, a Spanish botanist, further developed Jardin Botanico and served as its director from 1878 until 1889. The Jardin Botanico served as a place of recreation and a park for the public. In 1913, during the American occupation, the garden was renamed after John C. Mehan, who headed the sanitation and parks in Manila. Animals were seen and kept in the garden during the American period. During the World War II, it became one of its casualties and no account of the animals’ whereabouts can be found.

The artist, Teodoro Buenaventura was born in 1863 in Paombong, Bulacan. The mother of his employer, Ramon Salas discovered his talent in art and sent him to study in the Escuela Superior de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado in Manila. Before and during the turn of the century, he joined and won several prestigious art competitions. Among these are the gold medal for the Exposition Regional de Filipinas (1895) and a silver medal for the exhibition sponsored by the Asociacion Internacional de Artistas (1908). His son, Cesar (1922-1983), became an artist in his own right, identified as belonging to the so-called Mabini Art movement.  

Considered as one of the masters of realism in the Philippines, the elder Buenaventura served as one of the founding teachers at the School of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines in Diliman from 1909-1935. Leading painters such as Tomas Bernardo, Mauro Malang Santos, and Serafin Serna of the day revered him as their art teacher. Apart from Buenaventura’s landscape and genre paintings, most of his artistic outputs were destroyed during the War.

“Travail, Immigree, Kalutasan?” acrylic painting by Edgar Talusan Fernandez

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are regarded as modern-day heroes as they help shore up our economy through their remittances. To illustrate this, here is a 1981 acrylic painting by Edgar Talusan Fernandez (b. 1955) from the National Fine Arts Collection, entitled “Travail, Immigree, Kalutasan?” depicts an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) whom the artist met in Paris while on a travel grant. The woman was a teacher in the Philippines but when the artist met her, she was working as a domestic worker in Paris, France. She is seen here on the way to climbing a set of stairs that would lead her to reach the train from the "Nation" station (short for Place de la Nation, named in honour of 91st Bastille Day in 1880) to an undisclosed place. At that time, Nation was derelict area of the 11th and 12th districts of Paris, but one of its most populated areas. It has since been developed for the 200th year of the Bastille in 1989.

Painting Travail, Immigree, Kalutasan?” depicts an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW)

This painting is the artist’s tribute to all the migrant workers for sacrifices they endured to provide for their families and keep the Philippine economy afloat. With the outbreak of Covid-19, thousands of OFWs, mostly from the Middle East, returned to the Philippines. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) repatriated over 600,000 OFWs amid the pandemic. The return of our modern-day heroes faces another challenge of surviving and regaining gains in this uncertain time. 

Edgar Talusan Fernandez is a social realist painter who studied at the Philippine Women’s University. His membership in the Center for the Advancement of Young Artists exposed and cemented his leaning on producing artworks dealing with the social realities in the Philippines. He also co-founded two progressive artist groups, Kaisahan and Concerned Artists of the Philippines. In 1990, he received the Thirteen Artists Awards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award from the City of Manila in 2006. Until recently the artist was Chair of the Committee on Visual Arts of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

This painting, along with the other works of social realist artists in the country, is exhibited at the GSIS Northeast Hallway of the National Museum of Fine Arts. 

“La Enferma” by Felix Resurrección Hidalgo

“La Enferma” painting by Felix Resurrección Hidalgo

“La Enferma” or in English, the infirmed person, is an oil painting on canvas completed in 1900 and was listed as government property in 1946.  Hidalgo depicted a sick woman attended by a young lady. While we may interpret this as a daughter looking after her ill mother, this may have changed for us in the context of the ongoing pandemic. We would like to make this as a continuing tribute to our medical frontliners who are working hard to heal COVID patients in hospitals and government-run quarantine and isolation facilities all over the country. 

Felix Resurrección Hidalgo (1855-1913) was born in Binondo, Manila to parents Eduardo Resurrección Hidalgo and Maria Barbara Padilla. In 1871, he obtained his Bachelor of Civil Law degree at the University of Santo Tomas. In the next seven years, he pursued his love for art.  He enrolled at the Academy of Drawing and Painting in Intramuros, Manila. Hidalgo also left his home country for Spain, where he attended Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Hidalgo traveled to Europe in the last quarter of the 19th century and returned to the Philippines in 1911 to visit his ailing mother. During his almost three-decade stay in Europe, he produced several landscapes and genre paintings, including this painting.

Two of Hidalgo’s internationally acclaimed masterpieces: the oil study for the “La Barca de Aqueronte” (the original belonging to the artist’s collection, now lost, won a Gold Medal, Philippine General Exposition in Madrid, Spain in 1891) and the “El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante” (Gold Medal, St. Louis Universal Exposition in Missouri, U.S.A. in 1904) from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Collection and the National Fine Arts Collection, respectively, are exhibited at the National Museum of Fine Arts. 

The artist died on March 13, 1913, in Spain.

“La Enferma” is on display at the Far East Bank and Trust Company-Andres and Grace Luna de San Pedro Memorial Hall, Gallery VI, at the National Museum of Fine Arts.

“Ruined Gate of Fort Santiago” 1949 oil painting by Simplicia "Nena" Saguil (1914-1994)

“Ruined Gate of Fort Santiago” 1949 oil painting by Simplicia "Nena" Saguil (1914-1994)

A work by the pioneering female abstract painter in the Philippines, Simplicia "Nena" Saguil (1914-1994) from the National Fine Arts Collection (NFAC). This is the 1949 oil painting, “Ruined Gate of Fort Santiago,” a small but quite powerful reminder of the importance of preserving our built heritage from the vagaries of war. It is displayed in the Silvina and Juan C. Laya Hall, otherwise known as our war gallery, of the National Museum of Fine Arts.

This oil on canvas painting completed in 1949 depicts the ruined ornate main entrance gate of the fortress in Intramuros. Fort Santiago was built in 1571 by the Spanish navigator and governor Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to establish Manila's new city, also known as the Walled City of Manila. The rugged stone construction of Fort Santiago using volcanic tuff was built in the early 1590s.   The ornate gate of Fort Santiago was built together with some military barracks in 1714.  The edifice was damaged by the 1880 earthquakes and was destroyed much during the Battle of Manila in 1945. Saguil was able to capture the ruins and what was left from the war. This painting is one of the artist's early works in the late 1940s when she was still painting primarily representational images through portraiture, genre, and still life. She went through a transitional phase when she went to Europe and eventually grew more affinity with abstract art, experimenting with materials, colors, circular shapes and nonrepresentational forms.  

Simplicia “Nena” Laconico Saguil was born to Dr. Epifanio Saguil and Remedios Laconico on September 19, 1914, in Santa Cruz, Laguna. She graduated Certificate in Painting in 1933 and an undergraduate degree in 1949 with a medal of excellence, both at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts. She held her first solo exhibition in 1950 at the Philippine Art Gallery. 

The artist studied abstract art at the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica in Spain on a Walter Damrosch scholarship, and moved to and resided in Paris, France, to pursued further education at Ecole des Artes Americane. She held solo exhibitions and group shows in Paris and was also recognized by international organizations like Salon International de Juvisy, Paris-Sud 1964; the Musee de la Lumiere, Tour, France, 1967; and the Second Annual Italian Graphic Art Show, Ancona, Italy, 1968. Saguil died on February 17, 1994, at the age of 80, after two kidney operations in Paris, France.

“Landscape” (The University of the Philippines site in Diliman),” Oil on lawanit board by Dominador Castañeda (1904–1967)

Oil painting “Landscape” (The University of the Philippines site in Diliman),” a circa 1951 work by Dominador Castañeda

Oil painting “Landscape” (The University of the Philippines site in Diliman),” a circa 1951 work by Dominador Castañeda, from the National Fine Arts Collection (NFAC).

The painting depicts the landscape of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman campus sometime in 1951.  While it focuses our attention on the tree and shrubs leading to it, we can see from a distance the University Library. It was the first structure in the Diliman campus constructed in May 1949, four months after the University moved from the original Manila campus to Quezon City. Completed in January 1951, it was designed by Juan Nakpil who was the campus architect and eventually honored as National Artist for Architecture in 1973. The University Main Library building was later named Gonzalez Hall in honor of the former UP President Bienvenido Gonzalez. It is now the center of the University’s Academic Oval.  

Dominador Hilario Castañeda was born on April 8, 1904 in Santa Cruz, Manila. He studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Quiapo, Manila, completing his art education from the UP School of Fine Arts in 1924 and Art Studies at Chicago Art Institute in 1925. In 1931, he returned to the UP School of Fine Arts as a teacher and later became its director in 1956 to 1961 after National Artist Guillermo Tolentino’s term. 

He wrote and published Art in the Philippines in 1964 and was known as a friend and contemporary of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. Despite his association with latter, Castañeda deliberately deviated from being identified with his style that subsequently was labeled as the Amorsolo School. Hence, the absence of the usual sweet impressionist colors of Amorsolo, but a rather more realistic white and light blue tones are found in Castaneda’s landscape. 

The artist had held joint exhibitions with Amorsolo at the Manila Hotel in 1934, and a retrospective at Galerie Blue in 1971. He received the first prize from the Philippine Free Press national competition in 1936 and the first prize for Treasury note design from the Central Bank of the Philippines in 1949. The City of Manila bestowed upon him the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award in 1971. On November 27, 1967, Castañeda died at the age of 63.

This landscape painting of Dominador Castañeda is currently on display at the Second Floor, Northwest Wing Hallway Gallery of the National Museum of Fine Arts.

“Campesina” or “Country Lass” Oil on woodwork by Fabian de la Rosa (1869-1937)

“Campesina” or “Country Lass” Oil on woodwork painting by Fabian de la Rosa (1869-1937)

This oil on woodwork is titled “Campesina” or “Country Lass.” Painted in 1933, De la Rosa portrays a young lady walking and wearing a traditional baro’t saya, as she clutches the apron of her saya or skirt to perhaps ease her movement. This Filipino clothing which means “blouse” and “skirt,” was part of the everyday women’s ensemble during the Spanish colonial period and slowly phased out through the middle part of the 20th century when more modern clothing became an option. “Campesina” is part of the National collection and among the first artworks booked in the National Fine Arts Collection being acquired in 1946. 

Fabian de la Rosa was born in Paco, Manila. He belonged to a family of painters and was trained by his aunt Mariana de la Rosa and uncle Simon Flores, eminent portraitist and Filipino master painter. De la Rosa was the first mentor of his younger cousin, Fernando Amorsolo.  The latter became the first National Artist for Painting in 1972. In 1908, Fabian de la Rosa earned a scholarship to study in France and Spain. Upon his return, he taught at the University of the Philippines. In 1926, he became the first Filipino director of the UP School of Fine Arts and served for 11 years. 

He passed away on December 14, 1937.  He was posthumously awarded the “Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award” by the City Government of Manila in 1968.

De la Rosa’s “Campesina” may be viewed at the National Museum of Fine Art’s Early 20th Century Philippine Portrait Hall along with other works of portraiture by artists of the classical realist school from 1903 to the 1960s.

“Portrait of a New York Lady” by Galo B. Ocampo (1913-1985)

“Portrait of a New York Lady” painting by Galo B. Ocampo (1913-1985)

Born on October 16 in Santa Rita, Pampanga, Galo B. Ocampo (1913-1985) was one of the pioneers of Philippine Modern Art. He collaborated with Victorio C. Edades (1895-1985), and Carlos “Botong” M. Francisco (1912-1969), both of whom eventually became National Artists. Together they produced interaction murals like “Rising Philippines” (1935) in the lobby of the old Capitol Theater and “Interaction” (1935), representing a new style that moved away from the Impressionist approach led by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, as they develop a new visual language in their quest for a Philippine identity in art. Their group inspired Edades to list artists of the same persuasion and called them the Thirteen Moderns. Eventually, it influenced  a loose group of artists who defined themselves as the Neo-realists. 

One of Ocampo’s groundbreaking works is the “Brown Madonna” (1938), a reinterpretation of the Madonna and Child. He developed a more local iconography, including the mother and child’s brown skin, selecting colors from the Philippine flag, and using as accent the anahaw leaves to emphasize the halo. Another work that he developed in a series in the 1950s is the “Flagellants”, inspired by his experiences during World War II linking them with the images of penitence and Lent. Part of this is the painting “Ecce Homo” or “Behold, the Man,” depicting an image of Christ with arms bound together and standing in the middle of the devastation and surrounded by warplanes and parachutists. A devout Catholic, the artist designed the stained glass windows inside the Manila Cathedral and the Santo Domingo Church after training at the Instituto de Arte Liturgica, Rome, in 1956.

Besides being an artist, Ocampo served the Philippine government from former Presidents Manuel Luis M. Quezon to Ferdinand E. Marcos as a guerilla intelligence officer during World War II, a leading specialist in heraldry, and director of two state museums. He was the first Filipino to study the art of heraldry and became a member of the International Institute of Genealogy and Heraldry in Madrid. After his studies, he was commissioned to design the coat of arms and presidential seal of the Republic of the Philippines and other state symbols. He also founded the Presidential Museum at the Malacañan Palace.  

The artist then served as Director of the National Museum from 1962 to 1968. His term was highlighted by the accidental discovery of the Angono Petroglyphs by fellow artist Carlos Francisco, and the Tabon Man in Palawan by anthropologist Robert Fox. He was also an educator and taught fine arts and architecture at the University of Santo Tomas and at the Far Eastern University as Head of the Department of Fine Arts in 1971. 

Three decades after his death on September 12, 1985, Ocampo was posthumously awarded the Order of Lakandula (Maringal na Pinuno) by Director General Jeremy Barns, on behalf of former President Benigno S. Aquino III, at the National Museum of Fine Arts on July 22, 2015.

One of Galo Ocampo’s works, entitled the “Portrait of a New York Lady” (1949), can be viewed at the National Museum of Fine Arts in the exhibition “Pillars of Philippine Modernism”. This was a gift to the nation by his family in 2013.

“Tausug Princess” (or “Portrait of Santanina Tillah Rasul”) oil painting on canvas by Ireneo Miranda

“Tausug Princess” (or “Portrait of Santanina Tillah Rasul”) oil painting on canvas by Ireneo Miranda

Ireneo Miranda, born in San Fernando, Pampanga was a watercolorist, cartoonist, painter, and educator. He took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines (UP) and graduated in 1916. He created illustrations and editorial cartoons for various publications such as Liwayway and Graphic and also worked for the Pacific Commercial Company as an advertisement and label designer. In the 1920s, the informally named Amorsolo School of painting flourished with Miranda as one of its proponents along with fellow artists from the UP School of Fine Arts. He eventually joined it as faculty and taught Illustration, Cartooning and Painting. He mentored a number of Filipino artists who eventually became National Artists and eminent painters. 

Miranda was hailed as the Dean of Philippine Cartoonists but he also produced a number of oil paintings. The National Fine Arts Collection has in its custody, a number of works of the artist in this medium. In 1951, Miranda created an oil painting on canvas entitled “Tausug Princess” (or “Portrait of Santanina Tillah Rasul”). This artwork can be viewed in National Museum of the Philipines featuring the early 20th century Filipino portraiture at the National Museum of Fine Arts. 

In this painting, former Senator Santanina Tillah Rasul was portrayed while she was in her early twenties wearing the Tausug traditional clothing ensemble called batawi, which is a blouse worn during special occasions, and the skirt or sawwal. The long shawl draped across her shoulder is the habul tiyahian. Behind her is a woman holding a kudyapi (a two-stringed, fretted boat-lute that belongs to the Maranao and not the Tausug). A painting of farmers working the field which can be partially seen behind her, which he probably also created. In its formal quality, this portrait maybe considered conservative in style, applied with rich and vibrant colors while the subject sits reposed. Miranda completed this painting a year before the sitter graduated cum laude at the UP with a degree in Political Science.


The former Senator was born in 1930 in Siasi, Sulu, who is also an educator. She is the first Muslim woman to be elected as senator, having served in the Philippine Senate from 1987 to 1992 and then re-elected for another term. She co-authored and sponsored important legislations on women’s rights, Muslim affairs, adult literacy, family protection, and gender equality. One of these is Republic Act No. 6949 declaring March 8 of every year as National Women’s Day in the Philippines.


Other works of Ireneo Miranda can also be viewed in the same gallery: “Portrait of Fabian de la Rosa” (1869-1937) and “Portrait of Maria Lourdes L. Estella” (1929-2018). He died on March 21, 1964.

Text by Danelyn Sumaylo/NM FAD and photo by Bengy Toda

Depictions of Filipino Workers in Philippine Art

The Builders

Painting "The Builders" - 1928 / Oil on canvas / Approximately 1,050 x 3,670 cm / Artist: Victorio Edades / Cultural Center of the Philippines Collection
"The Builders" 1928 / Oil on canvas / Approximately 1,050 x 3,670 cm / Artist: Victorio Edades / Cultural Center of the Philippines Collection

Upon returning to the Philippines from studies in the United States, Edades sought to change the course of Philippine art, which was then dominated by the masters Fernando Amorsolo in painting, and Guillermo Tolentino in sculpture. His first step in his campaign for modernism was to hold a one-man show at the Philippine Columbian Club in Ermita, Manila.

The Builders was one of Edades’s major works exhibited at his 1928 one-man show. Here the subject was far removed from Amorsolo’s images of the countryside. Shown is a group of builders working to construct an edifice. The setting is not specific; neither do the builders have individualizing features. Edades emphasized linear and structural composition above other pictorial elements in his work. His mural, basically a horizontal composition, is composed of a semicircle mesh of bodies at the center, closed in by isolated figures on both the left and right edges. Almost no negative space is left on the canvas; neither are there any bright hues, the painting being entirely in shades of gray and brown.

The artist fit in the human figures by means of distortion and changes in scale and proportion to the general design. There is a horizontal line and instead of a gradual recession, the scale abruptly changes from the big foreground figures to the row of men in the background pulling on a rope. Also new are the bold contours and the painterly brushwork, which does not conceal its passage and produces a rough texture instead of the usual smoothness of surface. In a style that is representational but not realist, Edades was concerned with conveying the essence of men engaged in labor through the contortions of the bodies.


Painting "Gadgets" 1947 / Oil on canvas / 101.6 x 70 cm / Artist: Cesar Legaspi / Lucila Salazar collection
"Gadgets" 1947 / Oil on canvas / 101.6 x 70 cm / Artist: Cesar Legaspi / Lucila Salazar collection

This painting won the first prize in the second annual competition of the Art Association of the Philippines in 1949. While the painting is in the representational mode, the style itself is not realistic. The figures are distorted, their limbs elongated and transformed into machine parts. The men seem to metamorphose into machines in the industrial process. The theme is the dehumanization of human beings. Natural flesh tones are given a blue-green metallic hue, signifying a shift from the organic to the inorganic. The rendering of the anatomy in the torsos and muscles of the workers makes them look more like gadgets or contraptions than people.

The artist prefers linear articulation of the torso and limbs, while tonal contrast is used to heighten the machinelike effect. The rhythms of the composition, as in the parallel outstretched arms of the two central figures mimicking the beams and girders, suggest the mechanical rhythms of industrial technology, while the clock at the left is a symbol of rigidly measured time. Apart from the theme of dehumanization, the painting can also be understood in the light of the disadvantaged factory worker who deserves just compensation for labor that produces a country’s wealth and who is entitled to humane treatment by an exploitative society.


"Harvest" 1975 / Oil on canvas / 91.5 x 122 cm / Artist: Tam Austria / Johnny Litton collection
"Harvest" 1975 / Oil on canvas / 91.5 x 122 cm / Artist: Tam Austria / Johnny Litton collection

Lakeshore artist Austria works within the parameters of his mentor Carlos V. Francisco aka Botong Francisco and the latter’s vision and virtuosity. Working on myths and legends as well as rustic scenes, such as planting, harvesting, madonnas and children, family of weavers, fishers, or travelers, the artist explains that he is provoked to create by his environment. He also says that from the very start, he felt the need “to continue what has been started by our great artists—not to change tradition, but to think on how an individual artist can contribute to it.” Indeed Austria has further developed the Botong tradition. He lends more linearity to its forms, more warmth and transparency to its colors, and injects gentility into its figures.

This harvest scene is a picture of utopian grace and steadfast vitality. The whimsical fullness of muscles, veins, and sinew, and the undulating fluidity of the harvested stalks may be interpreted as an idealization of human labor or as the common person’s aspiration for a joyful, healthful, and bountiful life.


"Kagampan" (Fullness of Time) / 1983 / Oil on canvas / 244 x 152 cm / Artist: Renato Habulan / Salvador Lim collection
"Kagampan" (Fullness of Time) / 1983 / Oil on canvas / 244 x 152 cm / Artist: Renato Habulan / Salvador Lim collection

The power of this painting comes from the realistic and highly detailed representation of numerous figures of workers and peasants in several rows, almost filling up the entire pictorial field.

Here the masses, engaged in basic production, come forward in a formidable show of force, solidarity, and strength. Central to the painting is the choice of subject matter: the workers and peasants who are often marginalized in art but who now occupy the entire pictorial space. They are identified as such by their working clothes and by their tools. Their postures and stances convey dignity and self-confidence, not subservience, with pride as producers of the nation’s wealth. At the same time, the warm-red background of the sky hints at a smoldering anger, which is combined with a revolutionary optimism.

This painting was done in the last years of the Marcos regime at the height of people’s mass actions. It invited censure from the highest government authorities when it was featured in full color on the cover of a well-circulated national magazine, purportedly because of its protest tones.


"Struktura" (Structure) / 1990 / Oil on canvas / 108 x 162 cm / Artist: Antipas Delotavo / Emmeline Quiño collection
"Struktura" (Structure) / 1990 / Oil on canvas / 108 x 162 cm / Artist: Antipas Delotavo / Emmeline Quiño collection

The artist Delotavo belongs to the social realists who create art of sociopolitical meaning. A large body of his realist work consists of portraits of laborers and the urban poor; he also did a series of construction workers engaged in building the edifices of the Marcos period.

In this painting, there are also workers putting up a structure; however, it is important to note that this was one of the major works of the social realists painted after the Marcos regime and during the Aquino administration. Here the team of workers, done with a consummate realism of detail and scale verging on trompe l’oeil, are busy putting up a large billboard image consisting of several panels, some still unfinished and not yet in their proper sequence. Upon closer look, it is a mammoth head of former president Marcos that they are raising up, although the EDSA Revolt had earlier removed him from power. One of the people’s demands in the post-EDSA period was for the new government to dismantle the Marcos political structures, but here, ironically enough, his image is seen restored to its former dominance. This stemmed from the perception that the Corazon Aquino government, while it showed a progressive promise at the start, moved increasingly toward right-wing interests as it launched its total war in the countryside to wipe out peasant resistance. In this way, it showed its true face as not much different from that of Marcos with which it shared landlord and comprador interests with foreign support.



Text by NMP FAD

Photo by Bengy Toda


Juan Luna y Novicio (1857-1899)

Study for La Batalla de Lepanto/The Battle of Lepanto, 1887 (Two Helmeted Soldiers Against a Turk with Dagger)

Circa 1886-1887

Oil on panel

“Rural Scene” oil painting by Ricarte Puruganan (1912-1998) - Text by NMP FAD | Photo by Bengy Toda

© National Museum of the Philippines (2021)

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