CARLOS VILLALUZ FRANCISCO (aka Botong B. Angono)
(b. Rizal, November 4, 1914, d. Angono, Rizal, March 31, 1969)
Carlos Villaluz Francisco, born in 1914, was the son of Felipe Francisco and Maria Villaluz of Angono, Rizal.
Francisco studied at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Fine Arts. Before the war, he did illustrations for the Tribune and La Vanguardia, and later, with Victorio Edades and Fermin Sanchez painted sets for the Manila Grand Opera House, and the Clover Theater. He was also a member of the “Thirteen Moderns” a group formed in 1938.
After WWII, Francisco taught at the University of Santo Tomas, simultaneously working in film-making with Miguel conde, as the scriptwriter for “Ghenghis Khan, Putol na Kampilan” (Broken Sword) and “Tatlong Labuyo,” (Three Wild Roosters). He also designed costumes for “Romeo at Julieta,” (Romeo and Juliet) as well as “Prinsipe Tenoso,” (Prince Tenoso) “Ibong Adarna,” (Adarna Bird), “Siete Infantes de Lara,” and the Juan Tamad series.
Francisco belonged to the first generation modernists who, with Edades and Galo B. Ocampo, constituted the pioneering triumvirate which attempted to change the direction of Philippine art from the tenacious influence of the Amorsolo school in new and fresh idioms of visual expression. In the struggle for modern art, Francisco was one of the artists/protagonists in the center of the fray.
His painting :Kaingin” (Swidden), a modernist composition with strong design and rhythm, won him the first prize in the historic first national art exhibition of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) held at the National Museum in 1948.
Francisco, along with Edades and Ocampo were commissioned to do a number of murals for lobbies and for private residences such as that of the architect Juan Nakpil. These murals featured stylized figures in flowing curvilinear lines: nymphs dancing or playing the flute, often against a background of tropical vegetation.
Through these works, the artists contributed towards developing a Filipino imagery, drawing inspiration from the the customs and traditions of the Philippine people, as well as from familiar environments.
In the quest for a Filipino modernist idiom, Francisco, who chose to be based in his fishing village of Agono, observed Philippine folk aesthetics and researched Philippine histon,, customs, and traditions. He arrived at an idiom which was both Filipino and Asian. Francisco employed bold folk colors, flowing rhythmic lines and decorative patterns often covering the entire field of the painting. He evoked the communal life of Philippine gatherings and celebrations.
His images of women were drawn from mythology. such as Mariang Makiling; from history and legend, such as Princesa Urduja; from customs of the past, such as the maiden carried on a hammock across the mountain in Antipolo; and from contemporary folk, such as the woman preparing fish for sinigang. Fisherfolk were among his favorite subjects since he lived in a fishing village. He showed his closeness to the folk in paintings such as the “Camote Eaters,” his last and unfinished work.
Francisco’s first important mural was done for the 1953 International Fair held in Manila. On the theme of 500 years of Philippine History, its scope covered the legendary origin of the Filipino with the first man and woman Malakas and Maganda springing from the primal bamboo, up to the administration of then incumbent President Elpidio Quirino. The mural was finely executed in wood by the Paete woodcarvers.
Foreign visitors to the Fair were impressed by Francisco’s mural which received full Newsweek, but local sentiment was lukewarm and the work was promptly carelessly disposed of after the fair.
Francisco’s major masterpiece is the mural for the Bulwagang Katipunan of the Manila City Hall, commissioned by Manila mayor Antonio Villegas during his administration. “Filipino Struggles through History” chronicles the history of Manila from the first great Rajahs of Tondo, the Spanish colonial period, Balagtas, Rizal and the Revolution of 1896, up to the American colonial period which becomes the history of the entire nation itself.
In this work Francisco often integrated several historical episodes, in smaller scale, under one period. The episode groups, however, are not static but flow into each other by means of various linking devices, such as a winding river, flames branching out, or clouds coiling in spirals. The murals are marked by artistic vigor and inexhaustible inventiveness, a lively characterization of the numerous historical figures, and unifying all, a strong sense of design. Andres Bonifacio’s figure makes a compelling visual impact as he is shown forging forward, leading the Katpunero with their long bamboo spears, rifles, and bolos. Among the many dynanic scenes is the encounter between Limahong and the Spanish soldiers as they thrust their weapons at each other.
A smaller mural is the Pageant of Commerce in four sections: two sides on the history of Philippine trade, from commercial relations with China and Arabia to the Manila Acapulco galleon trade: a section on the development of modern industry in factories, travel and communication; and the central one of a Filipino couple in native costume, the woman slipping a coin into a bamboo alkansya, with the spirit of commerce hovering above.
Francisco also did the murals on the Life and Miracles of St Dominic for Santo Domingo Church, 1954; and the Stations of the Cross for Far Eastern University, 1956. He worked with Victorio Edades and Galo B. Ocampo on the mural of Rising Philippines for the Capitol Theater and murals for the Golden Gate Exposition, the State Theater, the houses of Pres Manuel Quezon, Ernesto Rufino, and Vicente Rufino.
Francisco’s Kaingin won first prize in the 1948 painting competition of the Art Association of the Philippines. He received the Patnubav ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1964. He was proclaimed National Artist in painting in 1973.
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