The Vargas Collection

Permanent Exhibit 2F Main Gallery PRE-VISIT Philippine art history from the late Hispanic to the post-war period may be reviewed to prepare the students for the exhibition visit. They may also be asked to identify notable artists from these periods. Below are the exhibition brief, section notes and an overview of Philippine art history as pre-visit guide materials. Exhibition Brief Jorge B. Vargas (1890-1980) served as the country's first Executive Secretary during the Commonwealth under President Manuel Quezon. His political career carried on during the Japanese Occupation as Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission and Mayor of Manila in 1942. He was later appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Japan from 1943 to 1945. On March 1, 1978, he donated his collection of art, stamps and coins, books and periodicals, personal papers, and memorabilia to his Alma Mater, the University of the Philippines. The Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center was inaugurated on February 22, 1987. The Vargas art collection tells an important story about Philippine modern art. It scans critical shifts from the late Hispanic academic period at the turn of the nineteenth century to the early phases of modernism at the beginning of the twentieth, and under American rule until its rise in the post-war era. The collection, however, loses its spirit if it is not felt in the context of current history and present consciousness. True to its commitment to initiate dialogue between the art of the past and contemporary expression, the collection is juxtaposed with works of Mark Salvatus, Poklong Anading, Roberto Feleo, Alfredo Juan and Isabel Aquilizan, and Cocoy Lumbao. These contemporary pieces converse with the artworks of Simon Flores, Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Fabian De La Rosa, Fernando Amorsolo, Guillermo Tolentino, Cesar Legaspi, Vicente Manansala and Victorio Edades, among others. Through their encounter, the past gains presence and the contemporary recovers its roots. Light 1886-1898 After years of learning from Europe through the transfer of the knowledge of art, Filipino artists achieved a level mastery in the late nineteenth century. As the Enlightenment stirred the elite to seek reforms from Spain and the aspiration to be free fired up the masses to wage a revolution, the light of art finally meant the end of the colony and the formation of a fragile nation. The canons of the local Academy and the recognition that expatriates Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo secured in the salons of the west would set standards, but soon tilted toward a modern direction by way of impressionism. Province 1899-1934 When America colonized the Philippines at the beginning of the twentieth century, it reclaimed the land of its conquest. It became an idyll, peopled by common folk portrayed in acts of rearing the earth and gathering its bounty. The School of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines found a style suited to this temper: romantic, pastoral, picturesque. Fernando Amorsolo was at the center of this imagination: prolific painter, gentle mentor, luminary of the conservative school of artists, and limner of the buoyant Filipino in a season of stark tensions. This ideal was inevitably challenged by modern art and its radical concepts of truth and reality.
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Unease 1935-1946 Nurturing a colony to become a sovereign government was at the heart of the Commonwealth. It was a season of transition under the auspices of the Americans, a frantic time to build a republic in a range of guises, from edifices to films, from language to commerce, from mores to well being. All would come to a halt during the Pacific War: Manila lay in ruin and the Japanese tried to remake what was seen a Catholic and western country in the image of the Orient. The art fleshed out this fretfulness: a nostalgia for peace and the need to bear witness to the ravages of conflict. Passage 1947-1960 Rising from the ashes of war, the Philippines stood its ground as an independent nation, with its state steered by the landed elite. This freedom instilled a different consciousness of the self at the time of the Cold War and industrialization. Modern art was part of this toil: to conceive an art faithful to its origin and at the same time inventive enough to be original. From post-impressionism to the School of Paris and on to abstraction, Philippine modernism gave birth to its own vanguards: the Triumvirate of Victorio Edades, Galo Ocampo and Carlos Francisco; the Thirteen Moderns; the Neorealists; and the Philippine Art Gallery. An Overview of Philippine Art History (1886-1960) The 19th century saw the secularization of art with the establishment of the art academy and the emergence the ilustrado class as new patrons of the arts. Previously, it was the Church that controlled artistic production. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 brought the country closer to the Western world and facilitated not only economic but also intellectual and cultural traffic. Through this exchange, Western thought and artistic influences filtered into the country. The Academa de Dibujo which began in the 1820s through the efforts of Damian Domingo produced homegrown talents like Lorenzo Guerrero and Simon Flores. Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo were two of the painter-students who went to Europe to study. Both gained recognition in Europe: Luna received the silver medal at the Expocision Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1881 for the Death of Cleopatra, and in 1884 a gold medal for the Spoliarium for the Madrid Exposition in 1884, where Hidalgo won a silver medal for Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho. When Luna moved to Paris in 1884, his dark palette, an influence from the academy, shifted to the bright hues and more spontaneous strokes of the impressionist style. American rule held sway at the turn of the century. Democracy and public education were at the forefront of the American agenda. Cultural programs started with the establishment of the Taft Civil government. A major outcome was the reestablishment of the art academy through the University of the Philippines’s School of Fine Arts through Act 1870. This development saw the shift in patronage from the ilustrado class to the American colonizers. American soldiers, as well as tourists, wanted to capture the unfamiliar land not only through photographs but also through painted canvases. The lure of the unknown and the exotic colony struck a chord among American patrons. Landscape and genre paintings soon became popular, Taming and owning the “land” through these paintings became an extension of America’s colonial custody of the Philippines. During this time, the School of Fine Arts found a style suited to this temper: romantic, pastoral, picturesque, with Fernando Amorsolo best expressing this imagination. The Commonwealth of the Philippines inaugurated on 15 November 1935 was established through the TydingsMcDuffie Act. Full independence after ten years was promised by the American government with the Commonwealth
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as transition government. Although the Philippines was considered self-governing at this time, foreign policies and military affairs still depended on the United States. Political figures were common subjects for portraits and caricatures as they became symbols of power and bore the responsibility of building a nation. The Commonwealth government was disrupted when Japan attacked the Philippines by the end of 1941. The Japanese troops occupied the Philippines and implemented its “Asia for Asians” policy. Philippines was then included as a member of the East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere created by Japan. The turmoil of war affected the artists during this period. As the schools, advertising and publishing houses closed down, the artist’s primary financial resources were also cut down. Jorge Vargas and other prominent personalities who retained their positions in the Japanese-sponsored government became the constant clients of artists. Having the resources to commission works, they became the art patrons during the war period. Commissioned portraits became the foremost mine of incomes for artists like Fernando Amorsolo. Genre and landscape paintings did not entirely lose their ground in the sphere of art production. They portrayed bounty, abundance and peace in a time of disorder, confusion and hunger. Artists, consciously or not, supported the ideals promoted by the Japanese government‘s cultural agencies - the Department of Information (Hodobu) and Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (KALIBAPI) that served as cultural arm during this period. Hodobu and KALIBAPI became institutions that fostered the cultural, moral, and economic advancement of the Filipino people, but most importantly remade what was seen a Catholic and western country in the image of the Orient. The battle between the conservatives and the modernists started in the 1930s, led by Victorio Edades as the firebrand of the modernists. The debate was interrupted by the war and resumed in 1948 with the sculptor Guillermo Tolentino defending the conservatives. The intellectual debates appeared in various local magazines. Edades took another step in propagating modernism (in the sense of opposing the classical tradition) with Carlos Francisco and Galo Ocampo (known as the Triumvirate) by creating the list of “Thirteen Moderns”. The establishment of the Art Association of the Philippines (1948) and the Philippine Art Gallery (1951) was also instrumental in raising awareness of this new movement as most of the winners for the AAP competition came from the modernist circle. Neorealism took another step in propagating Philippine modernism after the war. Neorealists such as Hernando Ocampo. Romeo Tabuena, Ramon Estella, Cesar Legaspi, Fernando Zobel, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr. and Vicente Manansala represented the group which branched out in two directions: the non-naturalistic and the abstractionist. The non-naturalistic worked on the simplification and distortion, focusing on the line, color and composition of the work. Meanwhile, the abstractionist discarded the subject matter of the work altogether and produced non-objective art. The course of history of the Philippine art from the late Hispanic period until the post-war period when the Philippine modern art started to flourish is well-represented in the art collection of the Vargas Museum. Bibliography: Castañeda, Dominador. Art in the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Office of Research Coordination, 1964. Print. Gatbonton, Juan, et al. Art Philippines: A History, 1521 – present. Metro Manila: Crucible Workshop, 1992. Print.

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ACTUAL VISIT Themes:  Form o Medium and technique o Format and scale o Subject matter or theme Representation o Language and meanings o Symbols o Re/presentation of women, class, gender and history in art Styles o Miniaturismo (Simon Flores) o Academic style to Impressionism (Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo) o Conservatives (Amorsolo School) vs. Modernists (Triumvirate, Thirteen Moderns, Neorealists) o Contemporary art (Conceptual art, video art, installations and site-specific art) Art and society o Art patronage and collecting o Art production and social history Encounter/dialogues of past and present that art facilitates

Points for Discussion:  What are the different media and techniques used in art works from the Late Hispanic (1886) to Post-war period (1960)? How did the medium and technique evolve in the course of time? What does it take to be modern? How is it different from the academic or conservative? How are women and common folk represented in art as object and subject? How do these depictions change through different colonial periods? What are the meanings or interpretations the viewer can derive from the images? How do these representations articulate identity and social class? Art patronage changed through different periods, the ilustrado in the late 19th century; American soldiers and tourists in the early 1900s; government officials such as Jorge Vargas at the peak of the Commonwealth and the war period; cultural programs of the Japanese government; establishment of Art Association of the Philippines and Philippine Art Gallery in the post-war era. How did patronage affect art production in different periods of Philippine history? Does the process of collecting influence the formation of the art market or do art/artists influence patronage and collecting? How does style (from academic to impressionism, realism to neo-realism, modernism and conceptual art) reflect and mediate developments in society? Does the establishment of various institutions, such as the academe, galleries and organizations, influence how we view art? Cite the important events that marked critical shifts in these art styles/movements. One of the major events in the Philippine art history was the “battle” between the conservatives of the Amorsolo School and the modernists led by Edades. How do these two conflicting art movements present reality, Filipino culture and identity in their works? What strategies are used by contemporary art pieces to express and communicate ideas? How do they differ from the conventional paintings and sculptures in terms of representation? How do the works of the artists from the past and contemporary ones relate with each other?
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Vargas Museum Educational Guide

POST-VISIT    Ask the students to write a reflection paper based on one of the suggested themes. Group the students for discussion. Broaden the “Points for discussion” in your classroom setting. Ask the students to create their own artwork in any form or style of their choice, in two or three dimensional formats.

Suggested Readings: Castañeda, Dominador. Art in the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Office of Research Coordination, 1964. Print. Flores, Patrick, ed. Perspectives on the Vargas Museum Collection: an art historical and museological approach. Quezon City: Department of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines, 1998. Print. ---. Perspectives on the Vargas Museum Collection: from revolution to Republic : the art of Luna, Amorsolo, Edades. Quezon City: Department of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines, 1999. Print. ---. Perspectives on the Vargas Museum Collection: minding the modern. Quezon City: Department of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines, 1999. Print Gatbonton, Juan, et al. Art Philippines: a history, 1521 – present. Metro Manila: Crucible Workshop, 1992. Print. Guillermo, Alice. Sining Biswal: an essay on Philippine visual arts. Manila: Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas, 1989. Print. Nochlin, Linda. Women, Art and Power: and other essays. London : Thames and Hudson, 1988. Print.

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