Fernando Cueto Amorsolo is a name synonymous with national art in the Philippines. The first paintings that many Filipinos will remember are the artist's beautifully romanticised landscapes, awash in heaven's own light. The prevalence of his style of work within his native country cannot be adequately articulated, as they adorn the walls of national museums and prominent private collections; are reproduced on wall calendars, posters and postcards; and inspire a host of aspirational copyists even until today. It is often commented that no Filipino artist in history has insinuated himself so successfully into the popular consciousness as Fernando Amorsolo. Periodically, heated debates will arise within the artistic fraternity as to whether Amorsolo's overwhelming legacy is boon or bane, having paralysed the artistic sensibilities of the Filipino artists and audience for more than three decades. What cannot be denied is that without Fernando Amorsolo, the face of Filipino art would have been drastically different.
Inspired by Spanish masters from the preceding generation such as Joaquin Sorolla and his own uncle and mentor, the illustrious Fabian de la Rosa, Amorsolo soon outs tripped his peers in artistic virtuosity. The years between 1920 and 1940 are viewed as Amorsolo's golden period, where his works were refined to the highest degree to achieve that evanescent splendour and breathtaking clarity. Indeed it is Amorsolo's aesthetic technique and inspired use of light for which he is most celebrated. His subject matters were usually derived from a few key prototypes, which he would then repaint tirelessly with only slight variations. These subjects were chosen for their dramatic potential, idyllic setting, heartwarming content, and nationalistic significance. Furthermore, a primary factor in their repetitive production was the consistent demand from local and foreign patrons who never wearied of them, which rather stultified Amorsolo's oeuvre in terms of thematic range and flexibility. Academic criticism aside, it is also true that Amorsolo himself was fundamentally an idealist, genuinely desiring to portray the most beautiful aspects of his beloved country and immortalise these moments upon his canvas for future generations.
The three works presented in this auction, Rice Planting (Lot 1200), Harvest Season (Lot 1201) and Beneath the Mango Tree (Lot 1202) exemplify the excellence of Amorsolo's genius in presenting halcyon pastoral scenes populated by enthusiastic native workers. Their rosy-cheeked optimism and robust vigor as they bring in the golden harvest, or enjoy a moment's repose under the shade of a mango tree create a gloriously utopic vista of the rural Philippines. More than just the auteur of beautiful pictures, Fernando Amorsolo depicted the Philippines that existed within the heart and souls of his countrymen, a fertile land bountifully laden with camaraderie and hope, unsullied by any realities of the human condition.