Last Updated: November 28th, 2018
Born on October 23, 1857, in Badoc, Ilocos Norte, Juan Luna y Novicio was one of the most celebrated artists and political activists of the Philippine Revolution. He was the third of seven children of Joaquín Posadas Luna and Laureana Ancheta Novicio-Luna. Who, in 1861, left for Manila in order to give the best education for their children.
After obtaining his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now Ateneo de Manila University), he later enrolled at Escuela Nautica (Academia Naval) to become a sailor. Together with his brother Manuel, they sailed the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and marveled at the picturesque views of Hong Kong, Amoy (now called Xiamen), Singapore, Batavia (present-day Jakarta), and Colombo.
To pursue his passion for the arts, he enrolled in the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura (now the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts) in Binondo, Manila. This, however, didn’t last long after he was discharged from the Academia. Not one to give up, he set sail to Europe with his brother Antonio to study painting at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando where he met Don Alejero Vera. Vera would eventually become one of the driving forces for Luna’s success after he took him as an apprentice. He was later granted a pensionado scholarship by the Ayuntamiento of Manila on the condition that he would create a painting for the Ayuntamiento.
On May 1884, the large canvas of his finished work, the “Spoliarium” was shipped to Madrid for that year’s Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes. His work bagged three gold medals awarded in the concourse which further cemented his place in reputation amongst art critics. To celebrate his victory, an event was organized where his good friend Jose Rizal stressed two significant things–the glorification of a genius, and the grandeur of the fatherland. After having developed a good relationship with the King of Spain, he was also commissioned by the Spanish Senate to work on a large canvas– the “La Batalla de Lepanto”.
With his decision to move to Paris and set up his own studio, he met and eventually married Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera, the daughter of Spanish-Portuguese lawyer Félix Pardo de Tavera, and Juliana Gorricho. Together, the couple had one son named Andres, and a daughter who died in infancy. While he was fond of painting his wife, he regularly accused Paz of having an affair with other men. Their marriage tragically ended on September 23, 1892, after he shot and killed his wife and mother-in-law, and wounded his brother-in-law. He was later tried for their murders but the case was dismissed after pleading temporary insanity and on the grounds of “crime of passion”.
After his return to the Philippines in 1894, Juan and Antonio Luna were arrested by the Spanish authorities for their involvement with the Katipunan rebels. After being released from prison, he decided to travel back to Spain in July 1897. Less than a year from his departure, he returned to the Philippines and was appointed as a member of the Paris delegation which pushed for the recognition of the República Filipina (Philippine Republic).
Juan Luna died from a heart attack on December 7, 1899, in Hong Kong. His remains were first buried in Hong Kong before it was exhumed and kept in Andre’s Luna’s house. It was later transferred to a niche at the crypt of the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila.
Some of Luna’s works currently on display at the National Museum of Fine Arts include the Spoliarium, The Parisian Life, Portrait of a Lady, and La Bulaqueña.
Japanese Scenes (1896)
Philippine Scenes (1894-1895)
Parisian Scenes (1885-1892)
Studies for La Batalla de Lepanto (The Batlle of Lepanto)
Studies for Obreros en taller de convertidores Robert de “La Vizcaya” (Workers in the “La Vizcaya Robert Steel Converter Foundry) (1894)
Student works in Italy, including Rome, Venice, and Naples (Pompeii) (1879-1884)
Family Portraits and Domestic Scenes in Paris (1887-1892)
The Manila Project
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- Graciano Lopez Jaena “Juan Luna y Novicio: A biography.”
- Ambeth R. Ocampo “Juan Luna’s Works”
- Arsenio Manuel “Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Volume II”
- National Museum of the Philippines