ANITA MAGSAYSAY-HO (The Philippines b. 1914)
ANITA MAGSAYSAY-HO (The Philippines b. 1914)

The Water Carriers

ANITA MAGSAYSAY-HO (The Philippines b. 1914)
The Water Carriers
signed and dated 'Anita Magsaysay Ho 1950' (lower right)
oil on canvas
26¼ x 20 in. (67 x 50.7 cm.)
Painted in 1950

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Lot Essay

"...To glorify my country's grandeur,
Her mountains and her hills
The valleys rich with harvest,
Her rivers and her wills.
To portray her children's laughter,
The wisdom of the old at home,
And her brave youth that struggle,
Upon this earth we call our own!"
- Anita Magsaysay-Ho

The above lines were penned by a youthful Anita Magsaysay-Ho in 1944, in a flush of patriotism during the Japanese occupation. Despite their guileless sentimentality, they provide an inkling as to how Magsaysay-Ho was to view her native country, and strongly identify herself as a Filipino citizen, for the rest of her life. Eventually, the occupation forced Magsaysay-Ho to leave her ravaged country for America, the start of a long period of separation from her homeland during what were undoubtedly her most significant and formative artistic years. As an urban Manila citizen from an affluent background, the shock of the war developed her preferred pictorial vocabulary which focused primarily on the daily lives of Filipino people, particularly the women. Rather than the romanticised, beautiful maidens of Amorsolo's ilk, Magsaysay-Ho's females are sturdy village peasants, strong of limb and spirit. Even throughout her early years in America, her works display a lingering yearning and constant return to Filipino themes, underlining her psychological preoccupation with her faraway country.

Painted in 1950, The Water Carriers bears witness to this strongly developed nationalistic streak. It was produced during her time at the celebrated Arts Students' League (ASL) in New York - an institution which exists today - where she shared a classroom with those who were to become some of America's leading lights. Her teacher, the formidable Kenneth Hayes Miller who also mentored Edward Hopper, was instrumental in guiding Magsaysay-Ho towards a wholly modernist foundation, allowing her a complete break with the idealised genre scenes and realist techniques she had been drilled in during her youth.

"Miller taught Anita to see the whole picture in an oil painting, sharpening her compositional sense. She learned to apply a sienna ground as the unifying element in a painting. He coached her to always begin with the dark portion on a painting, never with the bright portions. To relate the subject to the background, she was taught Miller's technique of interweaving dark and light areas so they 'hold each other'. Also from Miller... Anita learned the compositional device of painting women in pairs. This interaction between two or more figures remains a Magsaysay-Ho forte." (Afredo Roces, Anita Magsaysay-Ho: In Praise of Women, The Philippines, 2005, p. 33)

This present work is very much an exemplary study from the 'Miller' era of Magsaysay-Ho's career, and she was obviously satisfied with it as it became the prototype for the form of works which she was to produce for the remainder of her career. Although her pictorial sense and aesthetic technique owed infinitely to Miller and her other teachers at the ASL, the subject matter is entirely hers alone: the nurturing, hardworking Filipino women amongst whom Magsaysay-Ho was proud to count herself.

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