FERNANDO C. AMORSOLO
Fernando C. Amorsolo, National Artist, was born on May 30, 1892 in Pace, Manila. He spent the first 13 years of his youth in Daet, Camarines Norte.
Already a promising artist at an early age, he busied himself in the midst of rice fields and abaca plantations sketching animals, seascapes, and landscapes. He spent time copying pictures from calendars and sitting by a wharf drawing ships at sea.
During the revolutionary period, he was attracted to the guardia civil in the streets of Daet: he took them as subjects for his painting and drew them well.
While in Daet, Fernando and his brothers studied in a public school and were tutored on how to read and write in Spanish at home. Unfortunately, his father's death left the family destitute and Fernando had to stop studying after only three years of formal schooling.
Two years after his father's death, in 1895, the family returned to Manila and stayed with the painter Don Fabian dela Rosa who was his mother's first cousin. Under Don Fabian's guidance, Fernando learned to mix paints and to wield the brush as his uncle's apprentice.
Amorsolo's first triumph was the second prize he won for his painting Levendo Periodico at the Bazar Escolta organized by the Asociacion Internacional de Artistas in 1908. This was also his first recorded prize in a competition with established artists.
At 17, Amorsolo enrolled at the art school of the Liceo de Manila where, aside from being a scholar, he excelled in drawing and other subjects, and won prizes in several design contests. Later, he graduated from the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1914.
His most notable work as a student was his painting of a young man and a young woman in a garden. That won for him the first prize in the art school exhibition in his graduation year.
Before graduating, he found a well-paying job at the Pacific Commercial Company. Shortly after his graduation, he was taken as an instructor in fine arts. At the same time, he also took a parttime job as draftsman in the Bureau of Public Works.
From among the professors under whom Amorsolo studied at the Liceo de Manila and at the University of the Philippines, Rafael Enriquez, Miguel Zaragosa, and Toribio Herrera influenced him most.
Amorsolo started to be known outside the country when he joined the Exposicion de Panama in 1914. His entries were a large portrait of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and an intriguing piece entitled La Muerte de Socrares.
Fortune smiled brightly upon him. In 1919, he caught the attention of Don Enrique Zobel, a wealthy businessman and father of the modernist painter Fernando Zobel. He was sent as a scholar to the well-known Academia de San Fernando, then under the directorship of Jose Moreno Carbonero and Cecilio Planas, two of Madrid's distinguished painters.
While abroad, he was attracted and influenced by the bright colors of the impressionists Sorolla, Zorn, Monet, and Renoir. At the same time he took up the Velasquez technique, the so-called "vision of the moment." However, his line was still classic and his colors of tonal values, an aspect learned from Fabian dela Rosa.
After a year in Spain, he returned to the Philippines and began teaching at the state university.
The whole decade of the twenties was Amorsolo's creative peak. During this period, he developed his interpretation of Philippine sunlight and landscapes which remain his greatest contribution to Philippine painting. During this time, he reached the height of his power and virtuosity. Thereafter, art lovers and collectors began seeking out his works.
His first masterpiece in 1920 was "My Wife, Salud." It was regarded as a masterpiece of portraiture by his fellow painters, most notably by his uncle Fabian dela Rosa. His El Violinista stamped him as an impressionist.
In 1922, "Rice Planting," a serious genre painting was completed. That same year, he obtained first prize at the Commercial and Industrial Fair in the Manila Carnival.
As an illustrator, Amorsolo's best work was done for Iñigo Ed. Regalado's Madaling Araw (a Tagalog novel). He also illustrated Pasion and textbooks for public school children.
At the Grand Central Gallery in New York City in 1925, Amorsolo held a one-man show which attracted many Americans who were interested in the Philippines.
A newly appointed director of the U.P. School of Fine Arts, his painting “Noonday Meal of the Rice Workers” won first prize at the New York's World Fair in 1929. A few years after, in 1931, Amorsolo also exhibited one of his anecdotal paintings, "The Conversion of the Filipinos" at the Paris Exposition.
At home, Fernando Amorsolo was awarded a grand prize when he exhibited his paintings at the Manila Carnival's Commercial and Industrial Fair in 1927.
For his distinguished achievements in art, he was named Outstanding Alumnus of the University of the Philippines in 1940.
The Japanese Occupation was generally difficult for painters but it did not seem to affect Amorsolo. He stayed in Manila and keenly observed the destruction of the city. The ravages of war were the
subject of Amorsolo's strong paintings like: "The Rape of Manila" and "The Bombing of the Intendencia" (1942); "The Explosion" (1944); and "The Burning of Manila" (1945).
On November 6, 1948, Amorsolo held a one-man retrospective exhibition at the National Museum in Herran, sponsored by the Art Association of the Philippines. In 1950, he exhibited two of his histo-
rical paintings entitled "Faith Among the Ruins" and "Baptism of Rajah Humabon" at the Missionary Art Exhibit in Rome.
To devote himself full time to painting, Amorsolo retired from the directorship of the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1952. He confined himself to his studio, painting from sunrise to sunset. His paintings became so popular that he could hardly meet the demand for commissioned works, especially portraits.
Amorsolo's works can be classified as color studies, genre pieces, anecdotal paintings, portraiture, and the paintings of the last war.
In recognition of his artistic prowess, awards came one after the other. These were the Gold Medal from UNESCO National Commission in 1959; the Pro-Patria Award; the honorary doctorate in Humanities from the Far Eastern University in 1961:the Diploma of Merit from the University of the Philippines in 1963; and the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1967.
At the age of 70, Amorsolo underwent a cataract operation. The operation, however, did not stop him from producing great works. An exhibit of his works was mounted at the Art Center of the Manila
Hilton in 1979.
In 1971, Amorsolo underwent an ear operation. He also came to suffer from diabetes, arthritis, headache and occasional dizziness. He became weak, but he would still paint whenever he felt a little better.
Once after an interview, he was asked by the interviewer to rest. He replied calmly that if he could have his way, he would prefer to die while he was painting. That wish, unfortunately, was not granted him.
On April 14, 1972 he died of heart failure at St. Luke's Hospital at the age of 79. Four days after his death he was conferred the First Philippine National Artist award at the Cultural Center of the Philippines by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Amorsolo was married twice. His first wife was Salud Jorge whom he married in 1916 and by whom he had six children. Widowed fifteen years later, he married Maria del Carmen . The couple had eight children.