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Women By the Seaside

Women By the Seaside
signed and dated 'Anita Magsaysay-Ho 1976' (lower left)
oil on canvas
71.1 x 89 cm. (28 3/8 x 35 in.)
Painted in 1976
Alfredo Roces, Anita Magsaysay-Ho: In Praise of Women,
Philippines, 2005 (illustrated, p. 273).
Alfredo Roces, Anita Magsaysay-Ho: In Praise of Women, Philippines, 2005 (illustrated, p. 273).

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Lot Essay

"In my works I always celebrate the women of the Philippines. I regard them with deep admiration and they continue to inspire me - their movements and gestures, their expressions of happiness and frustration; their diligence and shortcomings; their joy of living. I know very well the strength, hard work and quiet dignity of Philippine women, for I am one of them."
- Anita Magsaysay-Ho

Anita Magsaysay-Ho is widely acknowledged as the leading female painter in modern Philippine art. During her youth, she studied under the illustrious Fernando Amorsolo, master of the romantic realist tradition, and her earliest works reflect this tutelage of warm pastoralism and faithful portraiture. However it was during her experimentations with modernism during the 1950s that Magsaysay-Ho found her true artistic calling, blending localised genre scenes with an almost geometrical sense of modern figuration.

Magsaysay-Ho reveals a distinct preference for depicting her beloved compatriots, the Philippine women who are portrayed variously in scenes of harvesting fruit, catching fish, or interacting within the marketplace. Rather than the romanticised, beautiful maidens of Amorsolo's ilk, Magsaysay-Ho's females are sturdy village peasants, strong of limb and spirit. Magsaysay-Ho reinforces this through the use of bold, decisive lines and simplification of forms: triangular kerchiefs tied around angular faces, swiftly formed arms and legs, yet all with a strong gestural quality.

Women by the Seaside is an exceptionally attractive and sweet-natured rendition of Magsaysay-Ho's archetypes. It depicts a group of women on the beach readying the day's catch for a meal, while in their background their menfolk pull in the nets from the sea beyond. A seated woman peels mangos while her three friends prepare crabs and fish for the pot. Magsaysay-Ho's signature colors of soft jade and plant greens, saffron and ochre yellows are clearly in evidence. The overall composition is refined, with an exceptional amount of pictorial depth in comparison to other works of this period. During the 1970s, Magsaysay-Ho also pioneered a new 'Chinese ink blot technique', modeled on the wash effect of Chinese calligraphy which she became inspired by following her period of residency in Hong Kong during the early 70s. The use of this technique creates great textural quality, suggesting the salt-roughened bark of the mass of driftwood in the foreground. Its calligraphic effect contrasts beautifully with the graceful modeling of the figures and wide swathes of uninterrupted beach, sea, and sky, depicted in Magsaysay-Ho's most iconic style.

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