Fernando Amorsolo's Gift to Every Lover of Art

Fernando Amorsolo.  My favorite Filipino painter.

I've read several articles on the debate between the "Classical" Filipino artists represented by Guillermo Tolentino and Fernando Amorsolo and the Filipino Modernists led by Victorio Edades during the first half of the 20th century.  I find it amusing that during that time the proponents of Classical thought were based in UP and the Modernists were based in UST.

Of course I find this amusing in light of the present scenario that UP seems to be the hotbed of radicalism and progressive thinking while UST, in general, seems to be the school for conservative education.    It would be quite interesting to read the debates on print between Guillermo and Edades on what Philippine art should be.  I can picture radicals and futurists siding with the modernists.  I could picture a steady stream of congratulatory remarks of modern day artists to the Modernists of that previous era.

I love the thoughts and works of the Modernists led by Edades since they picked up their art from the progressive philosophies and art movements of their time, perhaps about all those movements on cubism, symbolism, expressionism, fauvism, surrealism, etc.    However, I don't think anyone at present would argue against the charm, beauty and historical importance of the works of Amorsolo.

Who among us will not love the way Amorsolo painted the Philippine countryside with all the beauty of the Philippine outdoor light?  Who among our artists have depicted Philippine soil, farmers and vegetation the way he did?

Perhaps all I really want to say is the Modernist movement was and is a great art movement and should continue to be drawn upon as inspiration but without the works of men like Amorsolo, Philippine painting would have skipped a most important phase in the development of Philippine art and history; and we would have been left with no memories of a romantic Philippines bathed in light.

I would compare Philippine painting minus Amorsolo to a China that built up Communism without the Marxist historical context of the Industrial Revolution.  My analogy may be flawed but that's how I see and understand it.  Marxist thought is based on the prior existence of class divisions brought about by the Industrial Revolution. At least that is what I understood from my Sociology class in college.  Communism without the established factories of the industrial revolution led to a Communist China that never really achieved the Utopian society they thought they would inevitably have.  The proletariat, bourgeoisie, capital, ownership of the means of production, and alienation of labor all arose out of the Industrial Revolution.

In the same way, a Modern Philippine art without first giving the Filipino people a pictorial representation THAT THEY COULD VISUALLY AND READILY UNDERSTAND AND IDENTIFY WITH,  would have left future Filipino generations without a visual memory of the pride, honor, dignity, joy, victory and pleasure of honest labor in our infinitely bright and beautiful country.

I believe that art, in all its forms -- be it the visual arts, music, prose, poetry, cinema, etc. -- becomes elitist when it almost exclusively caters to the cognition and appreciation of the elites, whatever kind of elitism it may be (be it intellectual or social).  I believe it was Francis Schaeffer who affirmed in me that Art should always be intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually stimulating and rewarding.  It should be readily, or at least potentially, understood and enjoyed by the daily wage-earner as well as the more sophisticated, more highly educated, more financially able lover of art.

Thank you, Fernando Amorsolo.

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