Last Updated: November 19th, 2018
A native of Binondo, Manila, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo y Padilla was the third of seven children of Eduardo Resurrección Hidalgo and Maria Barbara Padilla. He was born on February 21, 1855 and made a name for himself as one of the greatest Filipino artists of his generation.
While he was initially set to study law, the young Hidalgo obtained a degree in philosophy instead at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Knowing full well his passion for the arts, he went on to study painting with the encouragement of his first mentor, Father Sabater, one of his professors in UST. He also enrolled simultaneously at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura and studied under the Spanish master painter Don Agustin Saez–the same professor who taught the classes of Jose Rizal and Isabelo Tampinco.
In 1876, Hidalgo’s works, including “La Carca (The Native Boat)” and “Vendedora de lanzones (Lanzones Vendor)” were previewed at the Teatro Circo de Bilibid. Three years later, Hidalgo left for Spain as a pensionado in fine arts at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid–the same school where Juan Luna studied. Pensionados are qualified Filipino students whose expenses are covered by the Spanish colonial government while they acquire their degrees abroad. As a pensionado, artists like Hidalgo were commissioned by the Spanish government to finish life-sized canvases that showcases their artistry. Some of the Hidalgo’s works were–unfortunately–destroyed during the Second World War.
With his undeniable talent in painting, he won the silver medal in the 1884 Exposición General de Bellas Artes in Madrid for his work Las Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho (The Christian virgins Exposed to the Populace). The gold medal for the 1884 Exposición was awarded to Juan Luna’s Spoliarium which is currently on display at the National Museum of Fine Arts. Their unprecedented success in the arts scene prompted a celebration from the members of the Philippine reform government. Rizal celebrated their success with a toast wishing them good health and highlighting their success as evidence that Filipinos and Spaniards were born equals.
Regarded as one the national treasures of the Philippines, his award-winning masterpiece became part of the Thrice Upon A Time: A Century Of Story In The Art Of The Philippines exhibit held at the Singapore Art Museum. This award-winning masterpiece is now part of the art collection of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and is said to be their most expensive art work. It is currently on loan to the National Gallery Singapore for a five-year period starting in 2015.
Among the awards that he received for his works include the:
- “Laguna Estigia (The Styx)”, Exposicion General de las Islas Filipinas in Madrid (1887), Gold Medal
- “La Carca (The Native Boat)”, Exposicion Universelle de Paris, Silver Medal
- “La Carca (The Native Boat)”, Exposicion General de Bellas Artes of Barcelona, Diploma de honor
- His participation at the Saint Louis Exposition (1904), Gold Medal
- “El violinista (The Violinist)”, Saint Louis Exposition (1904), Gold Medal
Hidalgo mastered his craft abroad more than he did studying in the Philippines. Like Luna, he had his own studio in Paris where he lived a quiet life devoted to painting. While he may not have been physically present in the country, he devoted his time to work as a correspondent for La Independencia–a revolutionary newspaper that became one of the most important newspapers of the Philippine Revolution.
A year before his death, Hidalgo decided to head back to the Philippines to visit his sick mother. And it’s been several decades since he returned, he didn’t want to be away from Paris for long. He would later leave for Japan and take the Trans-Siberian railway back to Europe. Tragedy struck, however, when he fell ill in Russia and was near death by the time he reached Paris. He later died at the age of 53 near Barcelona in 1913. To honor his contribution for the country, the Philippines named a street in Quiapo Manila after him–Hidalgo Street. His remains were transported back to the Philippines and now rests at a family mausoleum at the Manila North Cemetery.
The Manila Project
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