• Southeast Asian Modern and Con auction at Christies

    Sale 2721

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1181

    VICENTE SILVA MANANSALA (The Philippines 1910-1981)

    The musicians

    Price Realised  


    VICENTE SILVA MANANSALA (The Philippines 1910-1981)
    The musicians
    signed and dated 'Manansala 73' (upper right); inscribed 'To Abbott Lighter with best wishes Manansala 2 Oct 73' and 'J.A.Roxas musicians' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    39¾ x 54 in. (101 x 137 cm.)

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    "If he found Cubism already an art of the museum, he gave it once more, the secularity of a living art. But above all, he mastered and changed an idiom so that it may eloquently voice his Filipino sensibilities." (Rodolfo Paras-Perez, Manansala, Plc Publications, Manila, 1980, p. 196)

    It was with such an artistic vision articulated by Rodolfo Paras-Perez that defined the mature works of Vicente Manansala. When Manansala was in the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris on a French scholarship for a year from 1950 to 1951, he came into close contact with Cubism from an intimate perspective, having studied and worked in the studio of Fernand Lger. The adoption of a Cubist vocabulary in his works was not coincidental but deliberated over. And in its deliberation, Manansala infused new life into the style, moving it from its European origins to the Philippines, where the painter's personal vision and his unwavering commitment to reality resulted in a large body of exceptional and enduring neo-Cubist pictures

    Musicians is a perfect illustration of Manasala's deep knowledge of the Cubist pictorial vocabulary, his sensitivity to realist details and his adroitness in securing the point of perfect balance between representation and structure. The image of five musicians, identified by an inscription on the back of the canvas that reads 'J.A. Roxas Musicians' is dispersed throughout the picture surface realistically with the typical flair of the artist. It resolutely stays away from any overarching laws of Cubist pictorial compositions. Seen as the figures are composed, the picture is given a sense of depth, a key absence of Cubist pictures.

    A musical cadence flows through Musicians, recalling an evocative quote of Manansala's - "I used bright colours and geometric shapes to create a melody". Indeed, Musicians is enlivened not only with the pleasing combination of form and a structure that supports and advances the adaptation of a Cubist vocabulary but it also is endowed with luminous shades of crimson, blue, greenish-yellow; each one of his colour bearing a light translucency that is the hallmark of Manansala's self-termed 'transparent Cubism'. A natural ability and adroitness with the watercolour medium paved the way for Manansala's interest in the gentle nuances and gradations possible with by handling watercolours well. With oil paintings, Manansala competently demonstrated the transference of particular watercolourist sensitivity to canvas.

    Manansala's pictures of musicians find numerous counterparts in his Chromatic series, a sizable proportion dating to the 1970s: pictures such as Cumbancheros and Rock Musicians show the artist's marked interest in the subject. A number of these pictures are of solitary female subjects set in tranquil and almost rustic environs. Musicians shares the basic tenet of a typical Manansala picture in the series - each one a soulful evocation of a scene and a brilliant encapsulation of the Philippine spirit.


    Gift of the artist to the present owner, Mr Abbott W. Lighter, a good friend of the late artist, in 1973.