National Museum of Fine Arts

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National Museum of Fine Arts, Manila Overview

Formerly known as the National Art Gallery, National Museum of Fine Arts is a popular art museum situated across the National Museum of Anthropology on Padre Burgos Avenue in the neighborhood of Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines. Owned and operated by the National Museum of the Philippines, the museum was recently established in 1998. It houses stunning paintings and colossal artworks from contemporary and classical Filipino artists in the likes of Juan Luna, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and Guillermo Tolentino etc.

The building was originally designed and opened in 1926, keeping in mind the idea of a grand public library. However, after construction, the upper floors were occupied by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The exhibitions are spread over two floors which are frequently thronged by Art buffs, contemporary artists and regular tourists.

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Galleries at the National Art Gallery

The museum is spread over two floors- Level 2, also known as the House Floor which houses the Philippine art between the 17th and 20th centuries; and Level 3, also known as the Senate Floor which houses the modern and contemporary artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries. Some of the galleries housed on the two floor are given below-
  1. House Floor

    1. The first gallery on this floor houses one of the most popular and the valued paintings in all of the world- the Spoliarium by Juan Luna Y Novicio. This painting is showcased right across another spectacular work by Luna’s contemporary- Félix Resurrección Hidalgo called El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante. Other notable artists’ works displayed here are Napoleon V. Abueva, assisted by Renato Rocha and Jose Mendoza etc. 
    2. The next gallery which focuses on the religious thread prevalent in the culture of the Philippines. The gallery display wooden images and sculptures carved out of wood of Christian saints and paintings of Jesus Christ himself and Virgin Mary.
    3. Another gallery features the paintings and drawings of Philippine plants. Some of these drawings are from the archives of the Royal Botanical Garden in Madrid and were gifted to the Philippines by the Spanish Government.
    4. There is also an exhibition of the famous stunning sculptures by the Filipino sculptor Isabelo L. Tampinco. 
    5. Dr. José P. Rizal  was a famous Filipino novelist. A separate gallery portrays busts, sculptures and paintings of  the celebrated artists, made by other artists like Isabelo Tampinco, Graciano Nepomuceno, Guillermo Tolentino and Martino Abellana etc.
  2. Senate Floor

    1. The Northeast Hallway Gallery showcases paintings and artworks by celebrated artists like Nunelucio Alvarado, Papo de Asis, Orlando Castillo, Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Antipas Delotavo, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Gene de Loyola, Red Mansueto, Pablo Baens Santos and Roy Veneracion etc.
    2. Another galleries exhibits the works of the National artist Federico Aguilar Alcuaz and also has some notable artworks from the Government Service Insurance System Collection, The Aguilar Family Collection, and the National Museum Collection.
    3. There is another section celebrates the modern artists by the likes of Pacita Abad, Angelito Antonio, Antonio Austria, Norma Belleza, Jose Cuadra, Manuel Baldemor, Jaime de Guzman and Virginia Ty-Navarro etc.

Collections at the National Art Gallery

  1. Portrait of a Lady (Mi Novia / Portrait of Paz Pardo de Tavera) - 1885

    This one is a masterpiece by artist Juan Luna Y Novicio which has a beautiful woman in bed. It is believed that people who formerly bought this painting are known to have misfortunes.
  2. La Barca de Aqueronte - 1887

    This gorgeous painting is made by artist Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. Also called as “The Boat of Charon,” it was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Inferno which Hidalgo read while he was in Italy. It won him several awards. It depicts how condemned souls are ushered to the spot of their eternal damnation.
  3. The Burning of Manila - 1942

    The stunning painting painted by the renowned artist Fernando Amorsolo Y Cueto is considered one of his very best. He was originally a ‘soft’ painter who painter beautiful landscapes and portraits of Filipino women. However, after World War II, he shifted his focus to capture the destruction and ravage caused by the war.
  4. Rape and Massacre in Ernita - 1947

    Painted by Diosdado M. Lorenzo, the painting depicts the haunting images of typical violence caused during World War II. It clearly shows the killing of men, raping of women and orphans left helpless and pained.
  5. Planting of the First Cross - 1965

    The painting depicts the birth of Christianity in the Philippines which has been aptly captured by Vicente S. Manansala. It is a drawing of the establishment of the first cross by the Spanish in Cebu while the Filipinos stand and watch.

History of the National Museum of Fine Arts

The building of the National Art Gallery was first conceptualized by the renowned Architects Ralph Harrington Doane and Antonio Toledo in 1918 and was planned to house the National Library of the Philippines. However, due to lack of funds, the construction of the building was suspended several times in between. After bearing a total cost of around four million pesos, the building was complete and ready to be opened and was inaugurated on the 16th of July, 1926. While the ground floor was occupied by the National Library as planned, but the first, second and third floors were taken by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

During World War II, the building was almost demolished and severely damaged. It was later renovated and restores, however, most of its unique architectural features and ornate carvings were gone. Later, during the Martial era, the Legislative Section of the building was closed down. And finally, National Art Museum was opened here.

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