Within the generation of career modernists within mid-20th century painting in the Philippines, names which rose to the fore included Hernando Ruiz (HR) Ocampo, Romeo Tabuena, and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, alongside other artists such as Vicente Manansala and Ang Kiu Kok. Through works that strongly contributed to the development of the modernist visual aesthetic as we know it today, these artists came of age ranging between the 1940s to 60s, and practiced their art up to as late as the 1980s and 90s.
HR Ocampo is often seen as a succeeding generation due to the prominence of his later works, but age-wise he was a peer of Vicente Manansala and Cesar Legaspi, and together with them formed a pioneering triumvirate of radical modernists. His works are primarily abstracted forms derived from landscapes, figures and natural phenomena. Displaying strong colors, a textural presence borne of precise brushwork rather than a heavy application of paint, and wavy, undulating shapes opposed to geometric forms; Ocampo's works epitomize non-objectivisim and organic development. Abstract in Red, Brown and Green (Lot 207) is a beautiful example of Ocampo's practice, showing prismatic tones of muted brick red, chocolate brown, and varying shades of fauna-green. The shapes cling together in biomorphic form, rather like marine life or a densely clustered landscape formation.
Often rendered in jewel-toned colors and interlocking cubist-influenced shapes, the earlier works of Romeo Tabuena maintain a sense of translucency and fluid form while those from his later "Mexican" period are more opaque and have a stylized "blocky" quality which appear to cross-refer the works of HR Ocampo and the aesthetic of Mexican muralists. Ni(Lot 205) is a joyous and vibrant example of children at play, celebrating a native festivity with innocent gaiety. The textural, thick paint on masonite is characteristic of Tabuena's Mexican paintings, lending a dense, rich quality to the work. By this stage in Tabuena's career, his figures became more naturalistically rendered and emotionally intimate as he moved away from austere landscapes and pure modernism. In contrast, Children with Candles (Lot 206) shows an earlier work of a similar scene where Tabuena has prioritized modernist themes over aesthetic elegance, creating an almost geometric expression of the human form.
In a departure from his acclaimed Tres Marias series, the work presented here from Federico Aguilar Alcuaz is of a pastoral nature, superbly depicting the natural beauty of a Baguio landscape, seen from below the veranda of a traditionally built house. Landscape in Baguio (Lot 208) displays Alcuaz's swift yet confident brushwork, as he depicts a semi-modernist rendition of this mountainous vista. The perspective painted from below is unusual in a traditional landscape work, causing the viewer's gaze to sweep from the base of the artwork up into verdant clusters of leaves overhead, and finally soar into the sunshine-dappled blue sky to great effect.