Last Updated: December 2nd, 2017
Known as one of the most celebrated artists in Philippine history, Fernando Cueto Amorsolo produced an estimated ten thousand works of art–from sketches to illustrations of cartoons to paintings of Philippine landscapes and his personal experience during the Japanese occupation.
Born on May 30, 1892, in Paco, Manila, his parents were Pedro Amorsolo, a bookkeeper, and Bonifacio Cueto. After the death of his father, their family moved from Daet, Camarines Norte to Manila where he studied at the Art School of Liceo de Manila (now Manila Central University). He went on to study at the University of the Philippines’ School of Fine Arts at the age of 17 and served as a part-time instructor shortly after. Aside from teaching, he also worked as a draftsman and chair designer at the Bureau of Public Works (now DPWH), and as a chief artist at the Pacific Commercial Company.
Knowing full well of his artistic potential, he was given a grant to study at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain by Filipino industrialist Enrique Zobel de Ayala–the first patriarch of the prominent Zóbel de Ayala family. During his seven months in Spain, he was able to immerse himself in painting and mastered some of the qualities of impressionism, like the fluid brushwork and his skill in the use of light.
Shortly after his return to Manila, he set up his own studio and began painting prodigiously. From the 30s to the 50s, his works were widely exhibited around the country and even overseas. He was very in demand for portraits of high society figures, including foreigners, and was willing to make copies of his own works (although always slightly altered).
His return to Manila didn’t stop him from teaching, he continued to teach and even served as the Director of the Art Department of the University of the Philippines from 1938 to 1952.
Amorsolo passed away on April 24, 1972, at the age of 79 of heart failure. Shortly after his death, he was honored by then-President Ferdinand Marcos as a National Artist in Painting. Having been married twice, he left behind 14 children, five of whom became painters themselves.
Among Amorsolo’s works that are currently displayed at the National Museum of Fine Arts include a room full of his drawings, and some of his prized works on loan from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
– The Manila Project
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- National Commission for Culture and the Arts
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