“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up (Pablo Picasso)”. Some of my best childhood memories largely involve different forms of art. I am not saying I am an artist but art has definitely touched my soul in various ways ever since I was young. This is why visiting museums whenever I can is one of my simple pleasures in life. And I was just more than glad to finally visit the National Museum of the Philippines with my blogger friends.
The National Museum of the Philippines is comprised of branches including the National Museum of Fine Arts (formerly National Art Gallery), National Museum of Anthropology (formerly Museum of the Filipino People) and the Planetarium. I honestly did not know it was divided into several buildings until I arrived at the wrong entrance of the National Art Gallery and a museum personnel told me so.
Designed by Ralph Harrington Doane, the National Museum of Fine Arts is actually the main museum structure housed in the old Legislative Building.
National Museum of Fine Arts
The façade of the building is designed with Corinthian columns and wooden doors welcoming guests. Getting inside, the same Corinthian columns and chandeliers decorated the entrance hall. The entire museum is divided into several huge galleries sheltering magnificent pieces of art.
I believe every art work deserves appreciation and in as much as I wanted to feature most of the art pieces from the National Museum of Fine Arts here, there are just so many of them. As such, I listed ten of my most favorite art classics which you probably might not want to miss when you go there!
I’ve heard it countless of times in History classes, documentaries and news. But I never imagined myself standing in front of it, thinking how I’d feel doing so. When I finally saw Spoliarium, I have one word to describe my experience – speechless. I can stare at it for an hour and just be overly amazed.
Considered as the largest painting in the Philippines, Spoliarium was made by the Filipino painter, Juan Luna in 1884 as an entry in Madrid Art Exposition that won First Gold Medal.
Spoliarium came from a Latin word that pertains to the basement of the Roman Colosseum. The Spoliarium painting dramatically shows fallen gladiators being dragged by Roman soldiers.
2. Parisian Life
“Where is the Parisiain Life?”, asked by one guest. Actually we heard a number of people looking for it. The Parisian Life is also a personal favorite and I think that of the crowd as well. It’s quite popular because it is one of Juan Luna’s controversial paintings as it was bought by the GSIS (Government Services Insurance System) from an auction in Hong Kong for 46 million pesos.
The painting depicts a casual scene in a café in Paris. The three men you can see in the background are said to include Juan Luna himself (the man at the center) and Jose Rizal (the one whose back is half-turned).
3. The Old Senate Session Hall
The National Museum of Fine Arts also houses the Old Senate Session Hall at the third level of the building. The overall decoration of the Hall was made by a Filipino sculptor, Isabelo Tampinco together with his sons. The classical touch of the Hall makes me feel I am standing in a different time.
And did you notice the standing figures placed above the columns near the Hall’s ceilings? They represent lawmakers and other great historical personalities.
4. Amorsolo Drawings (National Artist for Painting, 1972)
Probably Fernando Amorsolo, a National Artist for Painting in 1972, is one of the most celebrated and most renowned artists in Philippine history. When I think of a great artist, the first thing that comes into my mind is an extravagant work of art. I was surprised but nonetheless astounded seeing Amorsolo’s various drawings. His sketches were drawn in simplicity and there were so many of them.
His drawings remind me that great things start small. It also taught me to practice and pursue your passion incessantly.
5. Retablo (Side Altar)
Remnants of a side altar made of wood from the 18th century that came from the Church of San Nicolas de Tolentino in Dimiao Bohol will really catch your attention. The color, intricate design pattern and the texture made this wood art piece exquisite in its own. Though it looks like it’s slowly deteriorating already, it is one of the few things I saw stunningly depreciating.
I have seen it countless of times in prenup photos but I had no idea it was located in the National Museum! The beautiful staircase is tucked in one of the corners of the museum. I just wonder where it actually leads to.
7. The Gift of Maria del Carmen Amorsolo
The last and unfinished painting of the great Fernando Amorsolo is also quite interesting. Together with his unfinished work, a replica of his studio is setup displaying his painting materials including his chair, table and other stuff.
Look closer at the painting and you’ll see how he sketches his subject before he actually paints it.
8. Mi Novia
So much of Juan Luna art works in the list, huh? If the Parisian Life is a controversial painting, Mi Novia (My Girlfriend) is referred to by some as the “Cursed Painting”. Stories say that the spirit of Luna’s wife dwells in the painting whom he allegedly killed. It has been said that those who owned the painting encountered terrible misfortune in life like business bankruptcy, accident and serious health problems.
9. Man and Industry
At first glance, this work of art looks so contemporary to me but it was made in 1962 by Vicente Silva Manansala (National Artist for Painting, 1981). It combines water color and collage on paper. Maybe as a child we all have made water color art projects and collages. But it’s beautifully unique to me to combine water color and collage in one art piece. Fantastic!
10. Sculptures of Guillermo Tolentino
One gallery houses the collection of Guillermo Tolentino’s sculptures. For me, sculpture is one of the hardest forms of art that can be made. Imagine how I look like when I entered this gallery – my eyes almost in disbelief! Some of my favorites are the bust of our famous national heroes.
- Taking photos inside the museum is allowed but use of flash is strictly prohibited.
- You cannot imitate the poses found in the art works and wacky poses are not allowed as well as a sign of respect.
- Each gallery is strictly guarded by a number of museum personnel.
- Touching any of the art pieces is not allowed.
- Belongings are required to be left in the baggage area.
- All guests are required to sign in the visitor’s logbook.
- Admission is free on Sundays.
- The museum staff guarding the galleries look strict – they really are! But that is because they just have to do their job. But they are also fun to talk to – they know a lot about the art pieces, mysteries included!
Money to Burn
- Student – PHP50
- Senior Citizen – PHP120
- Adult – PHP150
- Groups of 51 or more: Students – PHP40 | Adult/Senior Citizen – PHP120
Address: Padre Burgos Drive, City of Manila, Philippines
Operating Hours: 10AM-5PM (Tuesdays-Sundays)