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)|
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.
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|