WITH over 10,000 paintings done over his lifetime, Fernando Amorsolo is one of the most prominent Filipino painters to influence the nation even after his death. Today, we celebrate Amorsolo’s birthday and look back at his life beyond the canvas.
The artist was born in Calle Hernan in Paco, Manila to Pedro Amorsolo and Bonifacia Cueto. Although having been born in Manila, Amorsolo would find his artistic path in the small town of Daet, Camarines Norte where he spent most of his childhood, bringing forth his love for the simple rural life for which the artist was known throughout his career.
The artist’s talent in painting and affinity for landscapes and the rural way of life was noticed by his mother, who found potential in the young Amorsolo. To support his leanings toward art, his mother would send young Amorsolo’s paintings to her cousin Don Fabian dela Rosa, a prominent painter in Manila, who later became Amorsolo’s mentor.
Despite having been seen by critics as someone who has never experienced pain in his life for painting idealistic portrayals of his world, tragedy actually struck Amorsolo early in his childhood. His half-brother Perico, the eldest among his father’s children was recruited by the head of the revolutionary movement fighting against the Spaniards and Perico joined them despite his father’s protests. After the failure of the 1896 uprising, Perico was later seen bound with a bamboo pole strapped to his back being taken to jail. He was later executed by the Spaniards.
His father, taken by grief, died of a heart attack only a few years after Perico’s death. Perhaps, his utopian paintings portrayed a world devoid of pain due to the artist’s experience; symbols of hope that the ideals he wished to cling on to may still exist even only in the world he created on canvas.
Fernando was 11 when his father died. But before passing away his father made Bonifacia promise to give Fernando a proper art education. After having been widowed, she traveled back to Manila with her family in hopes of finding greener pastures. They lived with her cousin Fabian dela Rosa, who had been receiving the paintings of the young Amorsolo, and it was then that Amorsolo was exposed to the art industry.
To help his mother in making ends meet, Fernando assisted Don Fabian in his studio while learning from him. Later on, Amorsolo went on to sell his sketches for 15 centavos a piece to finance his education, and in 1914 he graduated with honors and a degree belonging to the first batch of graduates of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts.
The artist died of heart failure at the age of 79 on April 24, 1972 but not without leaving a mark on the development of the Philippines’ art industry.