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Second floor Main Gallery

J o r g e B. . V a r g a s (1890-1980) was the country's first Executive Secretary, serving during

the Commonwealth period beginning November 15, 1935 under President Manuel
Quezon. His political career continued during the Japanese Occupation when he was
Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission and Mayor of Manila in 1942. Later,
he was appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Japan from 1943 to
1945. On March 1, 1978, he donated his collection of art (painting, sculpture, print),
stamps and coins, books and periodicals, personal papers, and memorabilia to the
University of the Philippines where he studied Liberal Arts from 1909 to 1911 and Law
from 1911 to 1914. In 1983, the University laid the cornerstone for a building that would

house his collection, originally displayed in a private museum located at the Kawilihan
compound in Mandaluyong in Manila, where he resided. The transfer of the objects to
the Diliman campus began in 1986.

Word Search Credit: Rachel Halili, Art Studies major, UP Diliman Department of Art Studies


To gain entry to the Vargas Museum, the teacher or tour guide will make sure you have done your previsit homework. Organize yourselves into groups (depending on how many you are). Each group stands
before the lowest step. Teacher/tour guide asks random questions about the history of Vargas Museum.
Every time a group is able to answer a question correctly, they may advance to the next stair level. The
first group to reach the Vargas Museum Entrance wins.

The following and other related questions could be asked (So study and read up!):

What year was the Vargas Museum inaugurated?

Name 3 modern artists who works are found at 2F exhibit.
Describe the Amorsolo School of painting.
Who is Jorge Vargas?
What was the source of income of artists like Fernando Amorsolo?
What is miniaturismo?
What is site-specific work? Example?


Stairway to Vargas concept: Rachel Halili, Art Studies major, UP Diliman Department of Art Studies

How the Collection is Organized According to Themes

Light/Liwanag (1886-1898)
After years of learning from Europe through the transfer
of the knowledge of art, Filipino artists achieved a level
mastery in the late nineteenth century. As the
Enlightenment stirred the elite to seek reforms from
Spain and the aspiration to be free fired up the masses
to wage a revolution, the light of art finally meant the end of the
colony and the formation of a fragile nation. The canons of the local
Academy and the recognition that expatriates Juan Luna and Felix
Resurreccion Hidalgo secured in the salons of the west would set
standards, but soon tilted toward a modern direction by way of

Unease/Ligalig (1935-1946)
Nurturing a colony to become a sovereign
government was at the heart of the
Commonwealth. It was a season of transition
under the auspices of the Americans, a
frantic time to build a republic in a range of
guises, from edifices to films, from language
to commerce, from mores to well being. All would come to a halt
during the Pacific War: Manila lay in ruin and the Japanese tried to
remake what was seen a Catholic and western country in the image
of the Orient. The art fleshed out this fretfulness: a nostalgia for
peace and the need to bear witness to the ravages of conflict.

Province/Laan (1899-1934)
When America colonized the
Philippines at the beginning of the
twentieth century, it reclaimed the
land of its conquest. It became an
idyll, peopled by common folk
portrayed in acts of rearing the earth
and gathering its bounty. The School
of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines found a style suited
to this temper: romantic, pastoral, picturesque. Fernando Amorsolo
was at the center of this imagination: prolific painter, gentle mentor,
luminary of the conservative school of artists, and limner of the
buoyant Filipino in a season of stark tensions. This ideal was
inevitably challenged by modern art and its radical concepts of truth
and reality.
Laya/Passage (1947-1955)
Rising from the ashes of war, the
Philippines stood its ground as an
independent nation, with its state
steered by the landed elite. This
freedom instilled a different
consciousness of the self at the time
of the Cold War and industrialization.
Modern art was part of this toil: to conceive an art faithful to its origin
and at the same time inventive enough to be original. From postimpressionism to the School of Paris and on to abstraction,
Philippine modernism gave birth to its own vanguards: the
Triumvirate of Victorio Edades, Galo Ocampo and Carlos Francisco;
the Thirteen Moderns; the Neorealists; and the Philippine Art

or horizontal line gets a prize or bonus points.

Bingo game design: Rachel Halili, Art Studies

major, Department of Art Studies, UP

Guide questions for Reflection Paper

All these questions are useful guides as you walk through the collection, with or without a guide. For your Reflection Paper,
choose 1 question and write an 800- 1, 000 word essay (English or Filipino, but not taglish). Please dont write the essay by
answering them one by one or in sequence. FIRST PARAGRAPH FIRST SENTENCE SHOULD CONTAIN YOUR MAIN POINT, then
prove that point by using the questions as your guide.
1. Look at Simon Floress Primeras Letras (1890), an example of a genre painting rendered in miniaturismo1 style. Describe what you
see in the painting.
a. Who are the main figures? What are they doing?
b. Describe other details of the painting such as the setting or how they are dressed. What can you say about their social status?
Relate your observations with the reading on Art and Society. Who are the new patrons of secular2 art in the 19th century? What
social or economic factors brought about this change?
c. Read the text next to the painting (letter of the women of Malolos to the Governor General) and relate it with Primeras Letras. What
does it suggest about education and the role of women in the 19th century?

2. Take a peek at the work of Mark Salvatus titled Secret Garden 2 (2010). It is an example of a site-specific
work. What do you see? Read the text beside it. What kind of setting / place is being evoked by Secret
Garden? To which sector or group in society is this work addressed? Based on this work, what can you say
about the role of the artist in our current society?

Mark Salvatus. Secret Garden 2. (2010) Plastic bottles, light, text,

acrylic on the wall.


Miniaturismo-a style of portrait painting prevalent during the 19 century that values the meticulous rendering of embroidery, translucent fabric, and other
details which reveal a preference for the decorative. In some cases, the paintings fit in a locket.
Secular art- non-spiritual or non-religious type of art
Site-specific an artwork created purposefully for a certain place. The location of work is crucial to the artists intent/meaning and the reception of the


3. See the works of Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Juan Luna. Choose two of their works, compare and contrast how the artists
made use of light. How did the artists play with light? 4 What mood or temper do these paintings suggest?
4. Take a close look at Poklong Anadings Anonymity # 73 (2007). How is light depicted in this photograph? Why do you think is this
section of the Main Gallery titled Light? How does Poklong Anading make the concept of light familiar or unfamiliar?
5. Describe the setting 5 of the paintings that you see in the Province section of the main gallery. Compared with the setting in the
Light section, which places are suggested in the paintings in the Province section? What does this say about the preferences of the
new patron of the arts--the Americans in the colonial bureaucracy, visitors, and tourists?
6. Look at Roberto Feleos works. It is mostly akin to Roman Catholic figurines or santos enclosed in glass cases (vitrines). Describe
the figures that you see, and research about the Bagobo mythical characters Tuglibong, Tuglay, or Mebuyan. Why do you think did
the artist choose to place these figures inside the vitrinas? Also think about why this particular work is placed in the Province
section. Relate it with the artworks situated in this section.
7. Take a look at the genre paintings 6in the Unease section, especially: Fernando Amorsolos Rice Planting (1943), Fishing Scene
(1942), Laundry Woman (1942), and Tupada (1943); Vicente Alvarez Dizons Day Begins (1942). What are the people doing? How
do these paintings contrast with what was happening in the Philippines at the time (war period)? Relate the kind of images
produced at the time given the cultural policy of censorship by the Japanese colonial government. Also look at the slide show from
the Vargas Archives that shows war time photographs. (Look for the monitor at one corner of between Unease and Passage
sections or you can ask permission to research at the Archives section)
8. Note down images in the Unease section that belong to the same themegroup images that are similar to one another. For
example, landscapes / portraits / genre / historical. List down titles of works in each category. What do you observe? What are the
similarities in each category? What does this say about images that were prevalent during the war?
9. Focusing on the Unease section, what factors or intersecting events in history helped shape the art collection of Jorge Vargas? Also
think about the role Vargas (refer to pre-visit readings and research) played in history and his sensibilities that enabled him to
accumulate such a collection.
10. Describe Alfredo Juan and Isabel Aquilizans work, Belonging In-Transit (2008). What does it remind you of? What global and local
phenomenon does it suggest? How did the artists make the work personal? Think about the title of the work. Discuss how it
converses with other pieces in the Unease section.
11. What social realities can you glean from the paintings in the Unease and Passage sections? Cite specific works, and describe what
you see. You may refer to the suggested readings to supplement your answer.

Light- also known as value, which refers to the gradations of tone from light to dark that can be observed in any object under the play of light
Setting refers to time, location and sense of space
Painting depicting scenes of everyday life


12. Describe the use of color and the style of figuration of the paintings in the Passage section. For portraiture,7 how did the style of
Victorio Edades, Manuel Rodriguez Sr., Jesus Ayco, or Vicente Manansala differ from that of Fernando Amorsolo?
13. For a time, there was an ongoing debate between the conservative school in artmaking, headed by Guillermo Tolentino and
Fernando Amorsolo; and the modern school headed by Victorio Edades. As chronicled by artist and writer Purita Kalaw Ledesma,
the two camps exchanged a series of articles in broadsheets; each defending contrasting school of thought. The conservatives
painted what they saw, and closely as possible to the original. They painted from one point of view, adhering closely to the rules of
perspective and composition, not to mention, propriety. The moderns on the other hand, painted the Philippine scene with all its
blemishes and demanded respect for the medium (Kalaw-Ledesma, 1974) What does this say about artists and how they
engage in their particular circle and the public? How does this engagement revolutionize the way art is made and received by the
14. Explore Gaston Damags Saliva of an Ifugao as an Artist (2010). How did the artist make his identity felt? What does the act of
pounding or spitting on a sanitary space (washroom) imply? How did you feel when you were in the space? And how do you feel
that this kind of space exists within an exhibition of modern art?
Watch this video featuring a short talk by Olafur Eliasson, an artist engaged in large-scale projects and installations using elemental
Do you agree with Olafur Elliason that being in front of a picture creates a sensation different from being enveloped by a sitespecific work? Elaborate on your answer.
15. Look at the paintings by Fernando Amorsolo, Woman Cooking in the Kitchen (1959) and Malacaang by the River (1948). Why do
you think are they placed next to each other? What does it suggest about social spaces attributed to men and women? Describe
each painting, and draw similarities or differences in the two domains.

Many thanks to Louise Marcelino and the UP Vargas Museum staff for these questions. All images used in this study guide are from the Vargas Museum,
with thanks to the assistance of Mr. Eric Guazon.

Portraiture is the art of making portraits through such media as painting and photography. A portrait is a representation of an individual. It usually captures
the physical likeness of a person and gives insight on the character of the person.


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