If Juan Luna (1867-1899) and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo (1853-1913) represent the highest levels of achievement in the Filipino Academism while epitomising colonial art in the Philippines, then Fabian de la Rosa (1869-1937) and Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972) can be considered the masters of genre who dominated the Filipino art scene during the first half of the 20th century.
After Luna, Fabian de la Rosa is considered the brightest name in Filipino painting and certainly the most important for the first quarter of the century. As the mentor to Amorsolo, he imparted a skilled draughtsmanship as well as a balanced and austere palette to Amorsolo. When Amorsolo succeeded Fabian de la Rosa as director of the U.P. School of Fine Arts, he also continued the tradition of genre painting and to a large extent carried it to its golden age.
By no sheer coincidence, both Fabian's and Amorsolo's representational pieces are depictions of rice painting scene which include all the quintessential elements of genre: idealised beauties and cheerful children, preoccupying themselves with rural activities of the peasantry. Amorsolo, however, would differentiate his works from his teacher by depicting, for the first time in the Filipino art history, the sunlight as he actually saw it. Hence, in the works of Amorsolo, one sees sunlight filtering through thick tropical foliage and water reflecting extraordinary light. This skill won him the title of the Master of light, in addition to his uncontestable position as the chief proponent of genre.
Amorsolo's idealised landscapes and Filipinas would eventually develop as nationalistic symbols to a country which was desperately in need of a cultural identity after decades of foreign subjugation both politically and culturally and his major ode to rural life Planting rice would become the generic image for a whole generation of painters.
The present work Mango gatherers is one of the genre themes which celebrates the tranquil and idyllic lifestyle of the country which to the artist represented the very essence of Filipino culture. Although the repetitive, idyllic and picturesque images of the master were seen by some critics as too sentimental and an oversimplification of the rustic and agrarian Philippines although Filipino modernists felt the master had paralysed the imagination and creativity of artists for more than 3 decades. It is not justifiable to dismiss Amorsolo's genuine rejection of the Greco-Roman ideal of beauty which he had received in training and replaced it with his own understanding of an ideal Filipino figure.