Amorsolo Drawings by Dr. Rod. Paras-Perez
Fernando C. Amorsolo, the first genre painter given the National Artist award and perhaps – more significantly – the artist ever to rank first in the heart of his countrymen, actually believed, as the traditional classicist painter did, that drawing was the probity of art.
AMORSOLO sketched incessantly. Details like: hands and feet – in gestures and positions as eloquent as his characterization of faces. Or bodies. He made drawing studies of farmers doing their cyclic chores (from planting rice to harvesting) and cityfolk doing daily routines such as cooking, dining or trying to get through the Japanese wartime occupation.
WELL known within his circle as a man of few words and more than proper politeness, Fernando Amorsolo even habitually addressed his students with the respectful ‘po’. His art, equally gentle and suffused with grace was naturally seen as the extension of his personality.
Amorsolo did hundreds of drawings. For him nature was truth. It was truth with a thousand of faces: a certain smile, a certain expression or a unique gesture.
TRUTH for Amorsolo was moreover not a matter of documentary veracity but simply a question of credibility: a believable point. He was happy enough to be able to sketch countryfolk working in the fields. Or women doing their chores under the sun. But he was equally content to have members of his family modeling for him. Like: posing as scavengers during the Japanese occupation or doing other scenes he fancied.
AMORSOLO did his drawings the same way he painted. He decline images in terms if light and dark patterns. He defined light patterns instead of individual figures or objects.
AMORSOLO aspired – like his lodestar Velasquez – to give the viewer a total image at a glance. This was most obvious in his compositional studies. Quite often, his figure were not completely drawn but merely suggested. More so with facial features: they were generally very summarily stated.
YET the effect was most complete. It revealed the hand of a master.
FOR Amorsolo, the classical precepts neatly summed by Goethe as the true, the good and the beautiful were still valid ideals for art. Except: he considered Venus the Milo or Mona Lisa to be good enough for the West but for Filipinos – Amorsolo felt a different ideal of beauty was needed. He made this clear in the rare instance that he spoke when he defined the ideal Filipina beauty as. . . “one with a rounded face, not of the oval type often presented to us in newspapers and magazine illustrations. The eyes should be exceptionally lively, not the dreamy, sleepy type that characterizes the Mongolian. The nose should be of the blunt form but firm and strongly marked. The mouth plays a very important part in the determination of a beautiful face. The ideal Filipina beauty should have a sensuous mouth, not the type if the pouting mouth of early days. . . So the ideal Filipina beauty should not necessarily be white complexioned, nor of the dark brown color of the typical Malayan, but of the clear skin or fresh colored type which we often witness when we met a blushing girl.”
AMORSOLO’s stance was both nationalistic as well as an affirmation of a tradition. He rejected a universal ideal and continued to believe in the need for an ideal. Thus for him was as it was for the classical masters – man must be presented not how he is but how he ought to be.
IT was pointless to expect an ugly lass from Amorsolo or even – an angry landscape.
FROM his seminal landscape composition, Rice Planting (1992) Amorsolo continued to scour the countryside seeking not only his ideal beauty but also pursuing his love affair with sunlight. He particularly loved to paint sunlight at highnoon when contrasts were most strong; above all, sunshafts going through mango leaves fascinated him- more so when these created a lacework of light patterns on the ground or when a light spot highlighted a smile or a captivating gesture. And underlying every painting was the longing for an ideal beauty with definite roots, with a sense of place.
PAINTING nowadays is more introspective. Instead of asking what painting must seek or do, painting poses questions about itself: or what it is. Or about painting as the unique revelation of the self vis-a-vis painting as the articulation of an ideal. Or aspirations.
AMORSOLO’s drawings, from the simple studies of hands and feet to the more delightful compositions of his paintings, to the carefully done portraits and humorous caricatures, to the more mundance concern for commerce like his studies for advertisements – are all apt reminders that painting is not just a question of following the vibrators of the heart but must always include the structuring if a thinking eye.
AND that painting, before it becomes anything else – must first be about what is visible.