Hernándo Ocampo: Writer, Self-Taught Painter, And A Nat’l Artist

Last Updated: April 9th, 2019



Hernándo Ocampo: Writer, Self-Taught Painter, And A National Artist

Hernando Ocampo (image credit: National Commission for Culture and the Arts)


Hernándo Ocampo: Writer, Self-Taught Painter, And A National Artist

Abstraction 153 (1978)
Bank of the Philippine Islands Collection


Originally from Sta. Cruz Manila, Hernando Ruiz “Nanding” Ocampo was the son of Emilio Ocampo and Delfina Ruiz. He is but one of a few artists who started out in a different field while pursuing their passion for visual arts.


With the encouragement of his father–a frustrated politician who idolized President Manuel Roxas–he initially studied law in Letran in 1928. When this failed to materialize, he transferred to Far Eastern University, the year after, to study commerce. The young Ocampo stopped studying altogether in 1931, and much to his father’s dismay, he instead concentrated on his career as a writer.


As a writer, he was one of the organizers of the Veronicans, a young writers group that included the likes of Francisco Arcellana and Estrella Alfon. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, he became a scriptwriter while working at the Taliba Newspaper. In the late 40s, he worked in the Script Department of Palaris Films and Fernando Poe Productions, became an editor for the Manila Sunday Chronicle Magazine, and a producer-director of the Filipino Players Guild.


Some of his works as a fictionist include “Pamumulaklak,” “Rice and Bullets,” and “Bakia”; and the screenplay “Buntot Page.”


Throughout his career as a writer, Nanding became a self-taught painter. Unlike the generation of well-known modernists, he was not formally educated in the field of visual arts. Instead, he emulated other well-known artists including Fernando Amorsolo.


Ocampo later identified the stages of his long career as a painter:

  • 1929-1934, Amorsolo period
  • 1934-1945, proletarian period
  • 1945-1963, transitional period
  • 1963-1978, mutants period
  • 1968-1978, visual melody period


His artworks usually depict landscapes and lush sceneries with the use of bold colors and are usually abstract and non-objective.


As a painter, he became part of the Pre-War Thirteen Moderns led by Victorio Edades. He was also one of the Saturday Group of Artists that regularly met in Taza de Oro. And together with Cesar Legaspi and Vicente Manansala, they formed the triumvirate of Neo-Realists.


Hernando Ocampo married his first wife, Irene Illovato in 1932, and became a widower in 1945. His second wife was Cresencia Valenzuela.


Over the years, he earned numerous awards and recognition and was featured in over 40 exhibits. He was declared a National Artist in the field of Visual Arts in 1991, 12 years after his death.


Ocampo died in his home in Caloocan on December 28, 1978, at the age of 67.


Hernándo Ocampo: Writer, Self-Taught Painter, And A National Artist

Untitled (Abstract, Brown, Green, Red, & Yellow)


Hernándo Ocampo: Writer, Self-Taught Painter, And A National Artist

Untitled (Four women boxes)


Hernándo Ocampo: Writer, Self-Taught Painter, And A National Artist

An old photo of some of the well-known artists back in the day. STANDING: Jose Joya, Cenon Rivera, Manuel Rodriguez, Arturo Luz, Hugo Yonzon, and Fernando Zobel
SEATED (L-R): Cesar Legaspi, Nena Saguil, and Hernando Ocampo




The Manila Project

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  1. National Commission for Culture and the Arts
  2. Geringer Art, Ltd.
  3. The Manila Times
  4. H.R. Ocampo: The Artist as Filipino, Angel G. de Jesus
  5. Excerpts from several sources on Google Books




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