Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ilocano Heroes - Juan Luna, The Great Filipino Painter

Juan Luna was a patriot, but he was more known as the great Filipino painter if not the greatest. He was born on October 23, 1857 in Badoc, Ilocos Norte to parents Joaquin Luna and Laurena Novicio.
He received his first education at the Ateneo de Manila Municipal. He became an apprentice officer at the Escuela Nautica de Manila on 1873 and received his certificate as a seaman at age 17. While pursuing this course he took painting lessons at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura of Fr. Agustin Saiz.

Later in 1877 he left for Barcelona for advanced painting lessons as he was encouraged by Don Lorenzo Guerrero, his first painting tutot. He entered Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid where he received the school's only academic prize at that year. He also took private lesons under Alejo Vera, a famous contemporary painter in Spain. Vera took him in high regard and brought him to Rome to undertake certain commissions.

In Rome, Luna was exposed to the immortal works of the Renaissance. In here he painted his "Daphne e Cleo" where he received a silver palette from the Liceo Artistico de Manila. He exhibited several works at the National Exposition of Fine Arts in 1881 where he received silver medal with "The Death of Cleopatra".

While in Rome, Luna worked on the Spoliarium. It was said that the scene in this painting was based on the situation of the Filipinos under the Spanish government. He entered it at the National Exposition of Fine Arts in 1884 where he won one of the three gold medals. Because of his growing fame, he received several government commissions. With these commissions that he produced his many great canvases like the Peuple et Rois, Espa Filipnas and the Battle of Lepanto where he won his second gold medal at the Barcelona Exposition.

In 1885, he moved and established a studio in Paris. His studio became a gathering place of the Filipino community there. It was here that Jose Rizal together with other Filipinos organized the Indios Bravos. The following year, 1886, he married Maria de la Paz Paz Pardo de Tavera, a prominent Filipina, with whom he had a son, Andres.
"Parisian Life", also know as "Interim d'un Café" was painted in 1892. It won a silver medal at the St. Louis Exposition (World Fair) held in 1904.

At the center of the delicately painted masterpiece is a young and pretty woman languidly sitting in sofa. But more important, historically, is the scene at the side of the painting which shows our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, Dr. Ariston Bautista-Lin and Dr. Juan C. Luna in a vivid conversation.
Luna`s marriage ended in tragedy. In a fit of jealousy over his suspicion of infidelity on the part of his wife, he killed his wife and her mother and wounded his brother-in-law, Felix, on September 23, 1892. He was acquitted of the charge of parricide and murder by the French court on February 7, 1893. He was subsequently convicted in 1893 and sentenced to pay the victims' immediate kin but one franc each for their loss, as the court had deemed the murders a crime of passion. Later he moved with his son to Madrid, where he finished few paintings.
After an absence of 17 years he returned to the Philippines on April 27, 1894. While in Manila, he finished some Philippine scenes. Early in 1896, he again departed, this time for Japan. He returned a few weeks after the Cry of Balintawak. On the evening of September 16, 1896, he was arrested and confined for complicity in the Katipunan revolt and imprisoned at Fort Santiago. He was among those pardoned during the birthday of King Alfonso XIII on May 27, 1897. The following month, he left for Spain to work for the release of his brother Antonio.
In 1898, after the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War, the executive board of the Philippine revolutionary government appointed him as a delegate to the Paris convention, working for the diplomatic recognition of the Philippine Republic. When the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1899, he was named a member of the delegation to Washington, D.C. to press for the recognition of the Philippine sovereignity and independence.
Upon hearing the death of his brother Antonio, Luna hurriedly returned to Hong Kong from Europe. He suddenly died on December 7, 1899, because of heart attack. He was buried in Hong Kong. His remains were exhumed in 1920 and were kept in the house of his son, to be later transferred to a niche at the Crypt Chapel of San Agustin.
Among his last paintings was El Pacto de Sangre which won a first prize in Paris and at the St. Louis Exposition, USA in 1904, five years after his death.

Juan Luna - an Ilocano pride. His genius in painting showed the Ilocano artistry and his love of the country.

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