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Prehistoric cave drawings were discovered in a number of sites in the Philippines. A notable set is the
Angono Petroglyphs, found in a shallow rock shelter. It measures 63 meters wide, 8 meters deep, and a
maximum height of 5 meters. These were formed in volcanic soil during the Quaternary period.

There are 127 drawings in forms of animate and static figures with circular or dome-like heads on top of
a 'V' shaped torso. The drawings are distributed on a horizontal plane on a rock wall area measuring 25
meters by 3 meters. Only 51 of the total 127 drawings are distinct. Due to the complexity and plurality
of the drawings, it is suggested that the drawings were not only created by a single individual. the
figures engraved on the rockwall were probably carved during the late Neolithic, or before 2000 BC.[23]
These inscriptions clearly show stylized human figures, frogs and lizards, along with other designs that
may have depicted other interesting figures. Erosion may have caused some to become
indistinguishable. The engravings are mostly symbolic representations and are associated with healing
and sympathetic magic.

Artistic paintings were introduced to Filipinos in the 16th century when the Spaniards arrived. During
this time, the Spaniards used paintings as visual aids for their religious propaganda of spreading
Catholicism. These paintings, appearing mostly on church walls, featured religious figures that appear in
Catholic teachings. The purpose of most paintings in the Philippines from the 16th to the 19th century
were to aid the Catholic Church.

In the early 19th century, wealthier, educated Filipinos introduced more secular Filipino art, causing art
in the Philippines to deviate from religious motifs. The use of watercolour paintings increased and the
subject matter of paintings began to include landscapes, Filipino inhabitants, Philippine fashion, and
government officials. Portrait paintings featured the painters themselves, Filipino jewelry, and native
furniture. Landscape paintings portrayed scenes of average Filipinos partaking in their daily tasks. These
paintings often showcased ornately painted artists' names. These paintings were done on canvas, wood,
and a variety of metals.

During World War II, some painters focused their artwork on the effects of the war. Common themes
included battle scenes, destruction, and the suffering of the Filipino people.

Ceiling paintings of Argao Church by Canuto Avila and Raymundo Francia

Tampuhan by Juan Luna

Las virgenes Cristianas expuestas al populacho by Félix Hidalgo

Timeline of Philippine Art

18th Century

Earliest among the collection are religious in themes and composed of 18th century icons and images
created by local artisans under the tutelage of the friars. The devotional pieces of the collection are of
outstanding significance.
Coronation of the Virgin

19th Century
During the late Spanish colonial period, the school of Academism or “salon” painting emerged and
produced the likes of Juan N. Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, who are now considered as 19th
century masters.
Mother’s Revenge
Governor Dasmariñas


In the succeeding American period, Fernando C. Amorsolo, who was later declared as the First National
Artist, rose into fame and established his own style or “school” which was largely characterized by
countryside scenery with golden sunlight.
La Descencion de Jesus


The period is represented by the proliferation of genre themes, landscapes and still lifes as well as the
emergence of pre-modernism.
Bust of Mons. G. Aglipay

1930s: Pre-modernism

Artists represented in the collection: Victorio Edades, Diosdado Lorenzo, Galo Ocampo, Carlos Francisco,
Gabriel Custodio, Vicente Manansala, Ricarte Purruganan, Romeo Tabuena, and others.

A suspension on artistic activity was prevalent during the Japanese occupation. However, some visual
artists still managed to produce artworks based on the atrocities brought by the war.

Artists represented in the collection: Dominador Castañeda, Demetrio Diego, Diosdado Lorenzo, Romeo
Tabuena, Gene Cabrera and others


After the Japanese occupation, the art community sprang back to life. Various themes and styles were
explored and pioneered by Filipino artists who gained experience abroad.

Mural painting emerged, spearheaded by Carlos Francisco. Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) was
established in 1948.
Burning of Sto. Domingo


The Philippine Art Gallery (PAG) was founded with young modernists as the leading figures. Emergence
of different schools of thought (e.g. school of Botong Francisco, school of Manansala, emergence of the
“Mabini” art group).
Christmas Card Series
Harana in Manila


Modern art reached its peak.

Ink Fish
First Mass at Limasawa
Planting of the First Cross
Mother and Child

Most of the artists in the 1960’s continued to produce important works in this period. Emergence of
different movements such as People’s Art or Art for the Masses, Protest Art, Social Realism, and the
institutionalization of the National Artist Award (1972). 11 National Artists whose works are represented
in the collection:

Fernando C. Amorsolo-1972 (Painting)

Carlos V. Francisco-1973 (Painting)
Guillermo E. Tolentino-1973 (Sculpture)
Victorio C. Edades-1974 (Painting)
Napoleon V. Abueva-1976 (Sculpture)
Vicente S. Manansala-1981 (Painting)
Cesar T. Legaspi-1990 (Painting)

Hernando R. Ocampo-1991 (Painting)

Arturo V. Luz-1997 (Painting)
Jerry E. Navarro-1999 (Painting/Sculpture)
Ang Kiukok-2001 (Painting)
Hills of Nikko


The period is characterized by a revival of traditional art and ethnic art. Contemporary sculpture became
an integral part of buildings and parks.

Artists in the collection: Eduardo Castrillo, Ramon Orlina, Solomon Saprid, Raul Isidro, Red Mansueto,
Charito Bitanga, Phillip Victor, Emilio Aguilar Cruz, Federico Alcuaz, Al Perez, Virginia T. Navarro, Abdul
Mari Imao, Rey Paz Contreras, Jerusalino Araos, Norris Castillo, and others.

New generation of painters, sculptors and printmakers expressing their personal feelings and
expressions emerged. Great art movement in Europe and the Americas gained entry to the local scene
such as installation art and experimental art. Galleries and museums were institutionalized
spearheading activities in the cultural scene.

Artists represented in the collection: Ibarra dela Rosa, Prudencio Lamarroza, Elizabeth Chan, Eduardo
Castrillo, Pacita Abad, Fil dela Cruz, Romulo Galicano, Symfronio Y. Mendoza, Godofredo Y. Mendoza,
Rafael Pacheco, and others.

2000 to present

Philippine art has come a long way, from the primitive ingenuity of the Filipinos to the present avante-
garde artists exploring all possible techniques and schools ranging from the traditionalists,
representationalists, abstractionists, abstract expressionists, semi-abstractionists, figurative
expressionists, non-objectivists and other forms of -isms.

Art today is an open forum of visual statements.

The National Museum,

in pursuance of its mandate of preserving and protecting National Cultural Treasures and important
cultural properties of the nation, maintains a reference collection on the visual arts through the Arts
Division. This entire art collection constitutes a large portion of the artistic patrimony of the nation and
one of our legacies to the coming generations. Now totaling 1,032, the collection is composed of easel
paintings, sculptures, icons, sketches and mixed media, and span the 18th century to the late 21st
century. All are inventoried, accounted for and certified by the Commission on Audit. However, there
are artworks in the collection that are still undergoing accession proceedings.
Coronation of the virgin

The painting depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary ceremoniously crowned by God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, as queen of heaven and earth.

The theme replicates the 5th Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary and the Litany. It is one of the oldest
artwork in the visual arts collection. As a form of praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the theme is also
used as a figure title, “Reyna de los Cielos”, in the traditional May-time festival, the Santacruzan.

An extremely rare icon belonging to the primitive school of Philippine art. It is typical of the religious art
produced during the 18th century for household use (devotional piece).

Governor Dasmarinas

the painting Governor Dasmariñas, Hidalgo was able to expose the supremacy of the church over the
Spanish government. A good example of a historical painting, it depicts the figures of a Dominican friar
dictating on Governor Dasmariñas, who seems to be helpless, to sign a document allegedly authorizing
the immediate military assistance to the king of Cambodia.

During the colonial period, the clergy was acknowledged as the power behind the government. There
was no actual separation between the church and the state. Felix R. Hidalgo, a contemporary of Juan
Luna, was one of the primemovers in using the visual arts in unmasking the true identity of the colonial
The artwork was formerly exhibited in the Malacañang Palace.


The painting features a glimpse of Roman history centered on the bloody carnage brought by
gladiatorial matches. Spoliarium is a Latin word referring to the basement of the Roman Colosseum
where the fallen and dying gladiators are dumped and devoid of their worldly possessions.

At the center of Luna’s painting are fallen gladiators being dragged by Roman soldiers. On the left,
spectators ardently await their chance to strip off the combatants of their metal helmets and other
armory. In contrast with the charged emotions featured on the left, the right side meanwhile presents a
somber mood. An old man carries a torch perhaps searching for his son while a woman weeps the death
of her loved one.
The Spoliarium is the most valuable oil-on-canvas painting by Juan Luna, a Filipino educated at the
Academia de Dibujo y Pintura (Philippines) and at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain. With
a size of 4.22 meters x 7.675 meters, it is the largest painting in the Philippines. A historical painting, it
was made by Luna in 1884 as an entry to the prestigious Exposicion de Bellas Artes (Madrid Art
Exposition, May 1884) and eventually won for him the First Gold Medal.

Burning of Sto. Domingo

Amorsolo was able to capture on canvas the magnitude of the fire as well as the concerted effort of the
firemen and the clergy to save the sanctuary. Noteworthy was his rendition of intensity of the fire
through the application of hues, texture, and perspective, which were his trademarks. His early works
such as this have a hyper-realistic style.

The original church structure, which was of gothic architecture, was previously located within
Intramuros (Manila) and managed by the Dominican Order. It was one of the landmarks of Old Manila
and frequented by devotees because of the alleged miraculous image of the Our Lady of the Most Holy
Rosary (Nuestra Señora del Rosario de la Naval). The image is now enshrined in the new church located
in Quezon Avenue, Quezon City.

One fine example of a historical painting, it depicts the destruction of the Sto. Domingo Church brought
about by the tremendous fire that occurred in the 1940s.

Harana in Manila

The Harana in Manila shows seven geometrical figures playing musical instru-ments and serenading the
audience amidst fireworks (Fiesta time). The semi-concave glass medium is made by one of the leading
glass manufacturers in the United States, the Steuben.

Although glass etching is not as popular as oil-on-canvas, art in glass reached its peak in the creation of
stained glasses for churches and mausoleums. Contemporary visual artists contemplated of duplicating
European techniques by using their ingenuity in transforming an ordinary glass into a work of art.

Arturo Luz, one of the leading contempo-rary painters, created an experimental art and captured in
glass one of the highlights of Philippine tradition, the harana (serenade).
Ink Fish

is a figurative abstract painting of an undersea life with three skeletal fish as prominent figures and full
of colors. It was one of Ang Kiukok’s early works in the 1960s generally described as distorted,
disjointed, and full of geometric skeletons with overlapping geometric forms. The subject borders on the
artist’s social commentaries on the realities of life.

Ang Kiukok, declared National Artist for Painting in 2002, emerged in the 1960s as one of the second
generation of modernists. His cubist style was influenced by his master, National Artist Vicente

Critics remark that the style of Ang Kiukok represents his negative view of reality - full of suffering,
poverty, cruelty, and violence.

Hills of Nikko

One such fine example of non-figurative abstract expressionism is the Hills of Nikko. It is the artist’s
interpretation of one of the existing hills in Nikko, Japan. During wintertime, the hill’s imperfections are
thoroughly covered by snow. However, during summertime, those imperfections are expressed by the
artist in terms of bold brush strokes and super-imposition of lines.
The painting is actually an allegory to human imperfections. The earth colors symbolize the weaknesses
and limitations of humanity while the hues of greens and blues represent life and hope. The white
background represents the snow that starts to envelop the mound. In the process, the entire
imperfection will be covered thus presenting the cycle of life.

Jose T. Joya Jr. introduced the style of non-figurative abstract expression in the Philippine visual art. He
was also the exponent of contemporary art on ceramic with the Madonna and Child series.

The artist also espoused interaction paintings among the leading contemporary painters namely Cesar
Legaspi, Hernando Ocampo, and Vicente Manansala who are now National Artists.