Filipinos have inherent talent in the arts and crafts which flourished and further developed beginning the Spanish colonial period. Painting is one field where Filipinos have excelled and continue to excel.
In 1820, the first school of painting was established by Damian Domingo who is acknowledged as the Father of Filipino Painters.
The most prominent Filipino painters during the Spanish period were Juan Luna, Felix Resurrection Hidalgo and Fabian dela Rosa to mention a few. To date, the famous painting of Juan Luna titled Spolarium (Ed. Note: the correct spelling is Spoliarium) is on display at the ground floor of the Philippine National Museum. This painting won gold in the competition Exposicion Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid.
In the same competition, another Filipino, Felix Resurrection Hidalgo won silver with his painting Las Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho (The Christian Virgins Exposed to the Populace).
Both Luna and Hidalgo were the first Filipinos to have won prestigious awards in an international competition.
Hidalgo’s paintings, together with other prominent Filipino painters, form part of the Hall of Masters at the National Museum of the Philippines.
Fabian dela Rosa is another Filipino painter in the league of Juan Luna. He is considered as the leading Filipino artist in the field of genre (landscapes, lifestyles) and portrait painting. His most notable paintings which won him awards are: Planting Rice, gold medal in the International Exposition of St. Louis< Missouri in 1904 and The Death of General Lawton which won bronze in the same exposition. He received the posthumous award Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan from the City of Manila in 1968.
Master Fabian dela Rosa was uncle and mentor to another multi-awarded painter famous for portraits and Philippine rural landscapes. He was Fernando Amorsolo, whose paintings showed mastery of the light. Rural life notably customs, occupations and traditions were the recurrent themes of his paintings. It was said his works that include paintings and sketches reached about 10,000. His children established a foundation in his honor to conserve his works and promote his style. His contribution to Philippine arts was recognized when he was posthumously given the award for the first National Artist for Painting.
Succeeding artists who received the prestigious award of National Artist for Painting are (in alphabetical order):
1. Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (his recognition also includes his contributions in the field of sculpture and mixed media)
2. Benedicto Cabrera
3. Victorio C. Edades
4. Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco
5. Jose T. Joya
6. Ang Kiu Kok
7. Arturo R. Luz
8. Vicente S. Manansala
9. J. Elizalde Navarro
10. Hernando R. Ocampo
Some of the works of these artists are on exhibit at the National Museum of the Philippines and at several art galleries in Metro Manila.