In his early teens, Fernando Amorsolo would show that promise that
would eventually make him the most famous artist of his time. He
would win a contest organized by the influential organization called the
Asociacion Internacional de Artistas de Manila, for an exposition for the
fine arts in 1908. The following year, he would enter the School of Fine
Arts of the University of the Philippines, where his uncle — the noted
Fabian de la Rosa — was also a professor.
Amorsolo would be among the first graduates to complete the course.
He would next work at the publishing firm of Cacho Hermanos where
Jorge Pineda reigned supreme as the remarkable illustrator of the
He would somehow attract the attention of the industrialist Enrique
Zobel de Ayala, whose concerns among other enterprises included
the distillery Ginebra San Miguel. Amorsolo’s label of the avenging
archangel slaying the devil-serpent is still used to this day.
In 1919, Zobel de Ayala would bankroll his education in Spain in the
very same academy, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando,
where all the Filipino greats had gone from Luna to Resurreccion Hidalgo
to Zaragoza. Ramon N. Villegas noted that Amorsolo’s test results were
so excellent that he was invited to join the academy not as a student but
as an instructor.
Amorsolo would say in later years that it was in Madrid that his art
became what it was always destined to become, basking in the dramatic
draughtsmanship of Diego Velasquez and the impressionistic light of
Joaquin Sorolla (1863 - 1923).
The second work from the House of Tabacalera is the comely “Tobacco
Maiden”. It is undated but the Tabacalera archives date it in the late
1930s. A ‘casco’ or covered boat that used to ply the Pasig and other
major rivers can be seen ponderously moving up the still waters by
barge-men. On the side is the boat’s name: “Tabacalera 21”, another
hint as to the age of the painting, according to the Tabacalera records.