(Filipino, 1914-2012)
Village Women at Sunset
signed and dated 'Anita Magsaysay-Ho 1958' (lower left)
oil on canvas
91 x 40 cm. (35 7/8 x 15 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1958
Private Collection, USA

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

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 Filipino 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 despite their abbreviated renditions.

Painted in 1958, Village Women at Sunset (Lot 127) is a rare and relatively early work. Depicting two women with collecting baskets at the beach, the focus is primarily on their dynamic sense of interaction as they bend towards each other in conversation against a brilliant, flaming sunset. Compositionally it is similar to a few other works from this period of the late 50s, showing stylized figures and strongly colored interlocking background hues to draw the central image into a tightly concentrated whole.

One of the most important influences on Magsaysay-Ho's artistic development was her teacher Kenneth Hayes Miller at the well-known Arts Students' League (ASL) in New York, who was the first to introduce Magsaysay-Ho to modernist concepts. Alfredo Roces comments: "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."

Village Women at Sunset most of Miller's artistic tenets, particularly the pairing of women. However Anita Magsaysay-Ho elevates this fundamental technique into a thematic homage to Filipino women. The simple joy of female companionship in sharing work, play, laughter and tears is central to Magsaysay-Ho's work and infuses it with an enduring optimism, portrayed through the glorious rays of the setting sun.

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