Napoleon Abueva: The Father Of Modern Philippine Sculpture

Last Updated: January 11th, 2019


Napoloeon Abueva: National Museum

Napoloeon Abueva (image credit: National Commission for Culture and the Arts)


Napoloeon Abueva: National Museum

Abueva’s works on display at the National Museum of Fine Arts


Fondly remembered by some as “Sir Billy”, Napoleon Abueva slowly carved a name for himself as one of the foremost modern artists in the Philippines. Comparable to the likes of Tolentino and Tampinco, Abueva is now considered as the “Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture”. Proof to this is his contribution to the Philippine art scene and for being recognized as the youngest National Artist of the Philippines.



Early life

Born on January 26, 1930, Napoleon Isabelo Veloso-Abueva is a native of Tagbilaran, Bohol and is the son of former Bohol lawmaker Teodoro Abueva and Purificacion Veloso.

Abueva discovered his passion for sculpting at an early age by making animal figures with mud. This was interrupted, however, due to the outbreak of World War II. With this parents being active figures in the resistance movement, they would later be killed by the Japanese and he himself would be imprisoned and tortured.



After the War, Abueva continued his studies at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts where he graduated in 1953. During this time, renowned Filipino sculptor and National Artist Guillermo Tolentino took Abueva under his wing and became his mentor. He later recommended Abueva to replicate the famous oblation statue for the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus.

With another scholarship in the pipeline, Abueva left for Cambridge, Massachusetts to pursue advanced studies at Harvard University which culminated in 1956.


National Museum: Napoleon Veloso Abueva

Family, 1952


National Museum: Napoleon Veloso Abueva

The Manila Pavilion Reliefs: Raja Sulayman, His Court, and the Palisades of Maynilad, 1967


National Artist, Works

After serving as the dean of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, he was named by then President Ferdinand Marcos as a National Artist for Visual Arts for Sculpture–the youngest, at 46.

Some of his early works emulated that of his mentor, Guillermo Tolentino, but would later deviate to other modern styles using different materials including wood, stone, marble, brass, and steel. His minimalist sculptures made him one of the trailblazing artists of his generation.

Abueva’s major works include the Sunburst at the Peninsula Manila, Nine Muses, The Transfiguration at the Eternal Gardens Memorial Park, Blood Compact sculpture in Bohol, and the original bas-relief of the Insular Life Building in Ayala Avenue. These are just some of the over 600 body of works he’s completed using different mediums over the years.



Napoleon Abueva passed away at 5:30 AM on February 16, 2018, at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute after battling pneumonia. He was 88.


National Museum: Napoleon Veloso Abueva

Resurrection (XIV Station), 1989


National Museum: Napoleon Veloso Abueva

Mother and Child, 1950




The Manila Project

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  1. The Philippine Daily Inquirer
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