Fernando Amorsolo, a Filipino painter, painted rural landscapes and portraits between 1892 and 1972. His skill and expertise with light are what are most renowned about him. Throughout his lifetime, Fernando Cueto Amorsolo created more than ten thousand paintings and sketches employing backlighting and natural illumination. His best-known creations are his paintings of the dalagang Filipina, Filipino landscapes, portraits, and WWII battle scenes.

On the Way Home, 1945   _©spellmangallery

Career- Philosophy & Style of Work

On May 30, 1892, Fernando Amorsolo was born in Manila’s Paco neighborhood. At age 13, he began working as an apprentice for his mother’s first cousin, the renowned Filipino artist Fabian de la Rosa. Amorsolo began his education in 1909 at the Liceo de Manila before enrolling in the University of the Philippines‘ fine arts program, from which he graduated in 1914. Enrique Zobel de Ayala, a businessman, gave Amorsolo a scholarship to attend the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid in 1916 after creating the Ginebra San Miguel emblem. Diego Velasquez, a painter, had a significant impact on his painting style at this time.

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the Ginebra San Miguel emblem   _©fernandocamorsolo foundation

He spent three years working as a commercial artist and adjunct professor at the institution. He experimented with the use of light and color while sketching for seven months in Madrid’s museums and on the city’s streets. In New York, the works of the postwar impressionists and cubists significantly affected him. He opened his studio when he got back to Manila.

Amorsolo’s most significant contribution to Philippine painting at this time was the development of the use of light, or more specifically, backlight. An Amorsolo painting typically has a glow that the figures are delineated against, and at one point in the canvas, there is typically a burst of light that brings out the minute details.

Amorsolo produced an enormous amount of paintings throughout the 1920s and 1930s. At the New York World’s Fair in 1939, his oil painting Afternoon Meal of the Workers took home the top honor. Amorsolo continued to paint during World War II. Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s image was created in absentia at considerable personal danger for the Philippine collector Don Alfonso Ongpin.

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Antipolo Fiesta, 1947   _©fernandocamorsolo foundation

Amorsolo continued to paint from his Manila house after the start of World War II.

He painted paintings that depicted human sorrow and wartime events together with self-portraits and the Japanese occupation soldiers of the period rather than landscapes with sunny sky. In 1948, the Malacanang presidential palace displayed his wartime artwork. Amorsolo served as the University of the Philippines’ college of fine arts director following the war until resigning in 1950. He had 13 children from two marriages, five of whom became painters.

Many landscape paintings by Filipino painters, especially the early landscape works of abstract painter Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, show Amorsolo’s influence. Portraits were Amorsolo’s specialty. He created oils of all the presidents of the Philippines, as well as revolutionary commander Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and other well-known Philippine personalities.

Due to the demand for his paintings, he cataloged them and created a method to paint them more quickly. Before retiring in the early 1950s, Fernando Amorsolo held various positions throughout his career, including the instructor, a draughtsman for the Public Works, chief artist for the Pacific Commercial Company, illustrator for children’s books, and periodicals, and director of the School of Fine Arts.

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Portrait of Lina, 1946  _©fernandocamorsolo foundation

Additionally, he painted several depictions of combat, such as Bataan, Corner of Hell, and One Casualty. Despite having arthritis in his hands, Amorsolo painted well until his late 70s. Even in his later works, the trademark tropical sunshine of Amorsolo is present. He claimed to detest “sad and gloomy” artwork; however, he only produced one painting with raindrops.

Recognition after death.

Four days after his demise, Amorsolo was honored as the first National Artist of the Philippines at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. More than 10,000 paintings, sketches, and other pieces of art are estimated to have been created by Amorsolo. Amorsolo considerably influenced contemporary Filipino art and artists outside the so-called “Amorsolo school.”

In order to promote Fernando Amorsolo’s aesthetic and vision, preserve a piece of national history, and uphold his legacy, Amorsolo’s children formed the Fernando C. Amorsolo Art Foundation in 2003. Amorsolo’s paintings have achieved record prices at auction thanks to the growth of the Philippine art market since the 2000s.

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Portrait of Fernanda de Jesus, 1915 _©Artnet

On April 28, 2002, a Portrait of Fernanda de Jesus from 1915 auctioned out by Christie’s in Hong Kong for PHP19.136 million set a new record. A 1923 Lavanderas piece held by an American collector that sold for PHP20.83 million at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong later eclipsed this milestone, which was first reached on May 30, 2010.

The popularity of local auction houses in the country significantly increased the value of Amorsolo’s works due to the continuous repatriation of Philippine art in the 2010s.

Mango Gatherers, 1931 work is frequently referred to as the Conde de Peracamps Amorsolo because Antonio Méilan Zóbel, the 4th Count of Peracamps, originally owned it; it was sold at a Leon Gallery auction in Manila on June 9 for a record-breaking PHP46.720 million.

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Cooking Under the Mango Tree, 1946 _©Artnet

On February 23, another Leon Gallery auction in Manila saw the highest price for a 1946 Amorsolo genre painting titled Cooking beneath the Mango Tree, which had previously been owned by the Compaa General de Tabacos de Filipinas. Since then, other Amorsolo pieces have sold for more than PHP20 million.

Planting Rice, 1962 _©Artnet

The artist’s post-war works recently broke a record when a 1949 genre piece titled Planting Rice sold for PHP 30.368 million at a Salcedo Auctions sale on March 13, 2021. The Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center in Manila are home to a substantial collection of Amorsolo’s artwork.

Reference : 

Spellmangallery.com. 2022. Fernando Amorsolo – Artists – Spellman Gallery. [online] Available at: <https://www.spellmangallery.com/artists/fernando-amorsolo> [Accessed 24 June 2022].

Biography.yourdictionary.com. 2022. Fernando Amorsolo. [online] Available at: <https://biography.yourdictionary.com/fernando-amorsolo> [Accessed 23 June 2022].

Fernandoamorsolo.com. 2022. Fernando Amorsolo Biography – We Buy and Sell Fernando Amorsolo Paintings. [online] Available at: <http://www.fernandoamorsolo.com/Fernando_Amorsolo_Biography.html> [Accessed 25 June 2022].

Fernandocamorsolo.com. 2022. Fernando C. Amorsolo Art Foundation. [online] Available at: <http://www.fernandocamorsolo.com/> [Accessed 25 June 2022].

Author

Sakshi Jain is a fifth-year architecture student at the Mysore School of Architecture in Mysuru. She believes in creating experiences and exploring - big and small - which explains her love of language. With a rekindled love of reading and a desire to travel, she intends to go places and share her experiences.

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