Monday, 1 October 2012

Claudio Bravo in Manila until October 20

After 44 years, the Manila paintings of Chilean national artist Claudio Bravo can now be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum Manila until October 20, 2012.

Trust me, the exhibit is such a rare treat! The 35 portraits have remained in private collections throughout these years and the first and last time these portraits were seen was way back in 1968, during a 10-day exhibit at the Luz Gallery.

Mr. and Mrs. Zobel next to their Bravo painting (original in Spain)
Bravo was born on November 8, 1936 in Valparaiso, Chile and relocated to Madrid in 1961 where he was a celebrated  portrait artist sought after by royalty.

As the story goes, in Madrid in 1965, businessman Jaime Zobel de Ayala saw the portrait that Bravo did of his uncle  the artist Fernando Zobel and commissioned Bravo to paint him and his wife as well (the portrait is behind Mr. and Mrs. Zobel, left photo).

Back in Manila, upon seeing Zobel's portrait on a Christmas card, then First Lady Imelda Marcos loved it and invited Bravo to come visit. However, it was only in 1968 that Bravo was able to make the trip to the Philippines. He came together with the Spanish royals who were invited to the Ruby wedding anniversary of Eugenio and Pacita Lopez. He then stayed on for six months doing commissioned portraits for Manila's society.

After his sojourn in Manila, he was catapulted into international recognition. His first exhibit in New York in 1970 was critically successful. It was reviewed by the New York Times as an "art dealer's dream" and marked Bravo as a hyperrealist artist.

Baby Araneta-Fores 
If you have a chance, take a close look at the portraits and you will see his technical genius in action. The portraits are so life-like, they look like photographs. The proportions between the body, limbs and hands are in perfect symmetry. Gaita Fores said that her mom Baby Araneta-Fores (right photo) didn't even know that she had a slight bump on her forehead until she saw the portrait done by Bravo. That's how perfect his portraits are.

In a video interview, Bravo recalled his experience in Manila: "I think the Philippine portraits are, perhaps, my most lucid paintings, because it was a different race, beautiful! .. The Philippines was the tropics, a different vision of the world and light. There I began to use more 'electric' colors and enjoy color."

Curator Tats Manahan said that Bravo's stay had a great impact on his later works, noting the boldness of color as seen in his portraits and the use of light. She said "he was practicing on everything here for the paintings that eventually made him famous. That's what makes his stay here [in Manila] important." She added "It's an honor and we should be proud to be Filipinos that we inspired somebody as good as Bravo."

These Manila portraits are actually important in Bravo's career. These were his last big body of work before he concentrated on doing still life objects like his famous crumpled paper and packages; and figurative works.

Here's some of the portraits with the sitters (or children and grandchildren):
Cedie Vargas next to Pacita Lopez, her grandmother's portrait 
Berta Feliciano next to her mom's portrait, Chita Lopez-Taylor

Amb. Mercedes Tuason next to her portrait
Techie Ysmael-Bilbao next to her mom's portrait, Chona Kasten

Lia next to her mom's portrait, Tingting Cojuangco

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