IN CELEBRATION of the late artist Bonifacio Cristobal’s 100th birth anniversary, his artworks of were displayed for the first time in an exhibit, Damian’s Son: Century of Bonifacio Cristobal, at the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Museum of Art from July 27 to Nov. 30.

Cristobal was a pioneer modernist and a teacher for many years at the University of Santo Tomas school of fine arts. National Artist for the Visual Arts Victorio Edades, the founder of the UST fine arts program, included Cristobal in his famous Thirteen Moderns, that is, the original Filipino modern artists.

Among those exhibited were the award-winning “Hingutuhan” and the “Madonna of the Sampaguita.” “Hingutuhan,” an oil-on-canvas, portrays a mother and her two daughters picking lice from one another’s hair, a practice known to the Filipinos as hingutuhan. The artwork won first prize at the 1948 National Art Competition of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP).

“Madonna of the Sampaguita,” on the other hand, depicts the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus, the former wearing the traditional baro’t saya and the latter holds a rosary made of jasmine flowers. The painting won first prize at the Marian Year Painting Contest in 1954 and was the recipient of the Papal Nuncio Cash Purchase.

Meanwhile, “Christ in Mountain Province” shows Jesus in the fields of the Mountain Province in Cagayan as he preaches to the natives. Other religious artworks such as the “Bird’s Eye View of Last Supper,” “Mother and Child” and “Modern Map of the Holy Land” were also featured.

Being a princess was never her choice

In his life, Cristobal painted landscapes such as the Mayon Volcano and the Pasig River and animal-movement studies. He also did several portraits of his family as well as sculptures of Rizal.

Cristobal also painted an image of Emilio Aguinaldo as an entry to a painting contest sponsored by the Aguinaldo Memorial Society.

Born at Sorsogon in 1911, Cristobal went to Manila to study art. He was granted a scholarship at the University of the Philippines’ School of Fine Arts and graduated with a Certificate in Painting and a Medal Award for Excellence in 1937. He then travelled to Europe and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian at Paris, where he trained in painting and sculpture. He was conferred a Diploma de Peinture (Master of Figure Painting) in 1938 and was also granted a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Rome. Cristobal later moved to the Royal Academy of Florence.

Even as a student, Cristobal was joining and winning several art competitions locally and internationally, including the annual Spring Prix for Painting.

Cristobal went back to the Philippines in 1940 and taught at Gubat High School in Sorsogon.

In 1944, his work, “Prayer,” won honorable mention in an exhibition celebrating Jose Rizal’s 83rd birth anniversary.

After the war, he began teaching in several universities, including the University’s College of Architecture and Fine Arts (Cafa) in 1947, where he stayed until his death on May 20, 1977.

Cristobal painted a mural for the University’s old High School building and the portraits of Saints Cosme and Damian, which are currently with the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. The portrait of Saint Damian, which was featured in the exhibit, was returned to the Faculty last November 8.

Helter-skelter development

Some of his artworks commissioned by the University were the “Miracle of St. Catherine of Sienna,” “The Blessed Imelda,” and the “Appearance of the Angels to St. Thomas Aquinas in Prison.”

He also published Anatomical Notion for Art Students and co-authored and illustrated Philippine Folk Tales with Gaudencio V. Aquino and Delfin Fresnosa in 1970.

Unlike the other artists that were coined as the Thirteen Moderns, led by Victorio Edades, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, and Galo Ocampo, Cristobal was considered as one of the least known, with no solo exhibits during his lifetime.

Associate professor Mary Ann Bulanadi of the College of Fine Arts and Design, who wrote a research paper about the Thirteen Moderns, described Cristobal’s works as “almost free from subjective interpretations and distortions of form.” With reports from Cez Mariela Teresa G. Verzosa


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