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ANITA MAGSAYSAY-HO
(Filipino, 1914-2012)
Tomato Pickers
signed and dated 'Anita Magsaysay Ho 1975' (lower left); exhibition label affixed on the reverse
oil on canvas
91.5 x 76 cm. (36 1/4 x 29 7/8 in.)
Painted in Hong Kong, 1975
Literature
Purita Kalaw-Ledesma and Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Anita Magsaysay-Ho: A Retrospective, Manila, Philippines, 1998 (illustrated, p.122).
Exhibited
Manila, Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, A Retrospective, 15 December 1988-15 January 1989.

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Lot Essay

Known as one of the leading modernist painters in the Philippines, as well as a pioneering female artist within mid-20th century Asian art, Anita Magsaysay-Ho possessed the rare gifts of an impeccable compositional technique combined with the flexibility to absorb and individualize new artistic influences.

In Tomato Pickers (Lot 149), Magsaysay-Ho has chosen as her subject matter a group of three labouring peasant women in the act of picking tomatoes. Unlike the romanticised depictions within the earlier generation of idyllic landscapes, such as those by the teacher of her youth Fernando Amorsolo, Magsaysay-Ho preferred the more gestural technique of the North American modernists, with whom she associated closely with in the 1940s during her time spent in America. Her women bear a solidity and strength that sets her figures apart from other genre scenes of the mid 20th century; however they still retain the warm affability and companionship synonymous with the pastoral Philippines.

A homage to the hardworking, nurturing Filipino women, whom she felt a strong personal affinity towards, Tomato Pickers features its subjects in a means that approaches the sculptural. Their varying postures remain elegant despite the physical strain of their task, and their serene expressions afford the painting a quality of timelessness and transcendence. The delicately rendered foliage in the foreground, together with the warm green hues that permeate the entirety of the canvas suggests a sense of lightness and warmth. Emerging from Magsaysay-Ho's appreciation of the beauty to be found in the simplest of acts, Tomato Pickers is an exemplary work combining the artist's nostalgia for her home with her strong sense of artistic identity and expression.

Tomato Pickers was painted in Hong Kong, when Magsaysay-Ho moved there in the mid 1970s to be with her husband. Undoubtedly the work combines her fondness for the Philippines with a certain sense of nostalgia at being an expatriate away from home; yet its vivid colors and overall uplifting nature speaks of a joyous period within the artist's life.

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