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ANITA MAGSAYSAY-HO
(Filipino, 1914-2012)
Three Women in a Landscape
egg tempera on board
61 x 48.5 cm. (24 x 19 in.)
Painted circa 1950-1954

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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.
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 betwen two or more figures remains a Magsaysay-Ho forte."
Painted between 1950 - 1954, Three Women in a Landscape (Lot 187) is a rare and relatively early work, executed in Magsaysay-Ho's signature egg tempera on canvas. The artistic use of egg tempera is more difficult than oil paint, as the consistency makes this medium harder to control. Magsaysay-Ho's superlative control of this technique is one of her distinctive features as a modern master. Compositionally Three Women in a Landscape is similar to other works from this period, showing stylized figures and strongly coloured interlocking background hues to draw the central image into a tightly concentrated whole. It depicts three women harvesting fruit, a show of solidarity within the communal nature of Filipino society particularly amongst the women. Magsaysay-Ho's modernist spirit is clearly in evidence, through the almost cubist patterning of their clothing, the background trees, and the gradients of contrasting color.

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