Fernando Amorsolo: the Painting Guru of Rural Philippine Landscapes


The history of Philippine painting is as colorful as the life of Fernando Amorsolo. Many of the young and present generations of today, are not quite familiar about this “Master of Filipino Visual Arts”. Let this article unravel his personality and how his paintings dramatically changed the course of Philippine history, in the painting genre for a lifetime. Fernando Amorsolo was born on May 30th in 1892 in a humble and quiet community in Paco, Manila, Philippines. He was popularly known in local history for his rural Philippine landscapes. Likewise, Amorsolo is best cited for his mastery in using light, to magnificently craft his masterpieces. His father was a hardworking bookkeeper whose name is Pedro Amorsolo and his mother none other than Bonifacia Amorsolo y Cueto.

Fernando Amorsolo (Photo Courtesy: King Ysmael @im_dkmy on Instagram)


 Amorsolo’s Early Childhood

Fernando Amorsolo had spent his memorable childhood days, in Daet, Camarines, and Norte in Bicol region. There, he began his rudiments of education in a public school. At home, he was perseveringly mentored, the language of Spanish for both reading and writing purposes. Unfortunately, his father died so suddenly. Therefore, he and his family had no choice but to go to Manila, and lived with a wealthy individual, Don Fabian dela Rosa, a famous painter and a cousin of Bonifacia. At a tender of 13, Amorsolo lived a hard life. He had worked as an apprentice for dela Rosa. Through the years, the latter played a very significant role in the arts related -career of Fernando Amorsolo. Don Fabian de la Rosa had patiently guided the young Amorsolo in the world of painting. To augment their daily necessities, her mother labored day and night with embroidery. On the other hand, Amorsolo sold water-colored postcards to a local bookstore at 10 pesos each. From then on, his rendezvous with painting became more intense.

First Successful Painting Masterpiece

In fact, his first successful work art happened in 1908. His painting entitled, “Leyendo El Periodico”, bagged the second place in an art painting contest dubbed as “Bazar Escolta”. This was an art competition, organized by the Asociacion Internacional de Artistas. To hone his painting skills with utmost perfection, Fernando Amorsolo decided to enroll at the Art School of Liceo, Manila. Conversely, Amorsolo had proven that poverty is not a hindrance to be an achiever. In the said learning institution, he was bestowed the highest honors for art excellence; for his enigmatic paintings and drawings respectively.

Antipolo by Fernando Amorsolo (Source: wikipedia)


Collegiate Years and His Painting Inspirations

After his momentous graduation in Liceo, Amorsolo studied at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts. During his collegiate years, Amorsolo was greatly influenced by other painting legends such as Diego Velasquez, John Singer Sargeant and Claude Monet, to name a few. As a student, his notable painting which had been written in the pages of Philippine history was about a young man and a woman in a beautiful garden. Due to his impressive and prolific presentation of the subject, the brilliant and amateur painter from Camarines Norte won the first prize in their art school exhibition. In order to earn some money while studying, Fernando Amorsolo joined numerous painting competitions, for different publications in the Philippines. Among them were: the best-selling novel of Severino Reyes in Filipino entitled, “Parusa Ng Diyos”, Inigo Ed. Regalado’s “Madaling Araw”, and illustrations for the Pasion.

Amorsolo’s First Job

Soon after his tertiary education, Fernando Amorsolo’s first job was a draftsman at the Bureau of Public Works, he was  designated as the Chief Artist of the Pacific Commercial Company; In addition, he worked as a part-time teacher at the University of the Philippines for almost 38 years.  Then, the streak of luck had come his way when he was offered a scholarship grant to study at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid Spain, sponsored by Enrique Zobel de Ayala. During his fruitful stay in Spain for seven months, Amorsolo had done sketches of museums, along the busy streets of Madrid. To be different among his painting contemporaries, Fernando Amorsolo had magnificently experimented with the use of light and color for his future artworks.  From Madrid, he was able to conquer New York City, where he had first heard of postwar impressionism and cubism, which became his prominent influences, over the years.

Fernando Amorsolo’s Popularity Became Unstoppable

When he returned from his successful journey, he has established his own art studio. Of course, there is no more time to waste then. So he painted numerous paintings which were truly. Par Excellance. To date, his painting “Rice Planting” in the year 1922 had been chosen to be used in tourist brochures and posters during the Commonwealth regime. At the onset of the 1930’s, Amorsolo’s popularity had become unstoppable, here and around the world. In effect, his bright and positive pastoral images had been a trendsetter in the field of Filipino painting. Moreover, this stature has given Fernando Amorsolo to meet some of the elite members of the Philippines. They were Luis Araneta, Antonio Araneta and Jorge Vargas.

In later years, Fernando Amorsolo‘s paintings were used as covers and pages of textbooks for children. Unknown to many, there was a time when Amorsolo had to shift to the art of photography, for his other artworks. In so doing, it was much easier for him then to paste and mount them in an album. From this concept, his millions of clients were able to choose from conveniently, through his countless painting catalogues.

At the National Museum - Fernando Amorsolo (Photo Courtesy: Juancho Diego Razon Deloria @jahndee on Instagram)


Why Was Amorsolo Different from His Painting Contemporaries?

Uniquely, Amorsolo was the only Filipino painter in the history of the Philippines who had deviated from creating the exact copy of his very own trademark themes. Instead, Fernando Amorsolo recreated his paintings by the method of element variation. During the decades of the ‘50s and ‘70s Amorsolo had finished 10 paintings a month on the average. However, Fernando Amorsolo’s health was slowly deteriorating.

Fernando Amorsolo’s Twilight Years

During his last years on earth, he had undergone a cataract operation. But, after the successful surgery, he immediately went back to the love of his life.-PAINTING.  He left the world of painting, after he succumbed to heart failure on the 24th say of April in 1972.  Remarkably, four days after his demise former president Marcos bestowed him the First National Artist for Painting.

Unfinished Painting of Fernando Amorsolo (Photo Courtesy: @pixelaine on Instagram)


The timeless and priceless legacy of Fernando Amorsolo in the world of Filipino painting is like a blank canvass which is too expressive, when painted with paramount and revealing masterpieces which distinctively highlights the ingenuity of the Filipino.

Published on : 20/03/2018 by Puerto Parrot

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