10 Most Famous Filipino Artists And Their Masterpieces


The art of the Philippines is reflective of the diversity, richness and uniqueness of Filipino culture. It began during the pre-historic era which is signified by the various paintings and artworks found on the walls of the caves discovered throughout the region. However, Filipino Art, as we know today, began with colonization of the region by Spain in the early 16th century. The Spanish introduced Christianity to Philippines and art of the period was majorly influenced by religion. It thus reflects the religious propaganda through the country. Art played a significant role in the spread of Catholicism in the Philippines. From the 16th century till the 19th century, art in the Philippines was created primarily for the benefit and spread of Christianity. Change was seen in the early 19th century, when native people of the Philippines educated themselves. This change in education was also reflected in the art produced during that time. Among other things, there was a shift in focus from the church to the native culture of the country which included local landscapes, native fashion, jewelry and furniture. Another major change in Filipino art came during and after the Second World War. For many artists, the focus shifted from the native culture to the effects of the war. Painters started depicting battle scenes, death and the resulting suffering. Artists from the Philippines have continued to contribute to contemporary art of the world while experimenting with modern ways of expression. Here are the 10 most famous Filipino artists and their masterpieces.


#10 Pacita Abad

Pacita Abad
Pacita Abad

Lifespan: October 5, 1946 – December 7, 2004

Among other things, Pacita Abad is renowned for her eccentric use of color in her paintings. Some other unique features of her paintings included underwater scenes, along with wild animals and tropical flowers. She managed to highlight the constant changes and developments going on in the world around her. Her paintings are a reflection of her travels all over the world. After briefly studying painting in New York and Washington D.C., she went on to travel over 80 countries around the world. Her travels and her experiences with different people and cultures from various parts of the world had a major influence on her style of painting. In 1970s and 1980s, her work was majorly inspired by painters like Ben Shahn, which led her to create paintings which inspired political and social thought. Abad received several awards during her lifetime. In 1984, she became the first woman to win the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award. Additionally, she also won the D.C. Commission on the Arts Award in 1989 and 1990 and the Gwendolyn Caffritz Award in 1992.

Masterpiece: Underwater Wilderness Series (1986)

Underwater Wilderness (1986)
Underwater Wilderness (1986) – Pacita Abad

Other Famous Works:-

Fly me to the moon (2000)

I Put A Spell On You (1997)

#9 Hernando R. Ocampo

Hernando R Ocampo
Hernando R Ocampo

Lifespan: April 28, 1911 – December 28, 1978

A self-taught artist, Hernando Ruiz Ocampo majorly followed modernist traditions throughout his art career and highlighted his work by using extremely bold color palettes. His work was also inspired by science fiction writing and the Filipino landscape, which he portrayed by using biomorphic shapes. As a radical modernist artist, Ocampo was part of a group found by Victorio C. Edades, which was known as the Saturday Group of Artists or Taza de Oro Group. His work portrayed the extremely harsh realities of the world he lived in. Moreover, through his paintings, he depicted the colossal impact of the Second World War. Towards the second half of his artistic career, he moved on to abstract forms of painting. He was credited for the invention of an abstract form which used the native flora and fauna of the Philippines and spatial elements such as the sun and the stars to portray the abstract forms of life. In 1965, he won the Republic Central Award. Moreover, in 1991, Hernando R. Ocampo was posthumously awarded the title of National Artist of the Philippines.

Masterpiece: Genesis (1968)

Genesis (1968)
Genesis (1968) – Hernando Ocampo

Other Famous Works:-

Man and Carabao (1950)

Calvary (1948)

#8 Napoleon Abueva

Napoleon Abueva
Napoleon Abueva

Lifespan: January 26, 1930 – February 16, 2018

One of the most famous Filipino sculptors, Napoleon Veloso Abueva, was one of the youngest recipients of the National Artist for Sculpture title in the year 1976. Among other things, Abueva is known as the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture. He is credited for shaping the art of sculpture in his country. Abueva used numerous types of material to create sculpture masterpieces including marble, bronze, iron, stainless steel, hard wood, cement, adobe, coral and alabaster. Among one of his early innovation in his field was “buoyant sculpture”, which according to him was something to be viewed from the surface of a pool. He is famously known for being the first Filipino artist for putting up a one-man sculptural exhibit in the Philippine Center in New York in the year 1980. He was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines Award (TOYM) in 1959 and the ASEAN Award for Visual Arts in the year 1987.

Masterpiece: Kaganapan (1953)

Kaganapan (1953)
Kaganapan (1953) – Napoleon Abueva

Other Famous Works:-

Kiss of Judas (1955)

Allegorical Harpoon (1964)

#7 Ang Kiukok

Ang Kiukok
Ang Kiukok

Lifespan: March 1, 1931 – May 9, 2005

A man of Chinese descent, Ang Kiukok is most famous for his expressive artwork. Almost all his paintings have one thing in common: an extremely disturbing subject matter. With a dynamic profile, his paintings have been known to depict death; crucifixions; and tortured and screaming figurines; which portray the dull and bleak reality of life. Kiukok was a critically as well as commercially successful painter and his paintings have had a high viewership. The decade of 1970s, when Philippines was under martial law, was the time when he made some of his extremely grueling paintings. Apart from his subject matter, Kiukok is renowned for his extremely unique style of painting, which was a mixture of Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism. It was due to his style that he first gained fame and prominence in the 1960s. Ang Kiukok was named the National Artist for Visual Arts in the Philippines in the year 2001.

Masterpiece: Watermelon (1987)

Watermelon (1987)
Watermelon (1987) – Ang Kiukok

Other Famous Works:-

The Fishermen (1981)

Angry Figure (1982)

#6 Victorio Edades

Victorio Edades
Victorio Edades

Lifespan: December 23, 1895 – March 7, 1985

Victorio Edades was a revolutionary artist, who was the leader of the Thirteen Moderns, a group of artists who believed and promoted Modernism in artwork. A traveling exhibition from the New York Armory Hall was what inspired Edades to follow and appreciate modern art. Through the exhibition, he got inspired by some of the Modern European artists including Gaugin, Picasso and Matisse and felt a pull towards Modernism and Surrealism. He believed that Modernism allowed artists to experiment with art and encouraged artistic expression and freedom. One of his most famous paintings, The Sketch (1927) won the second prize in the Annual Exhibition of North American Artists. However, his ideas of modern art were not easily accepted in the Philippines. He had to struggle to bring a change in the conventions of domestic art in his nation. Nonetheless his contribution was recognized and he was bestowed with the honor of National Artists of the Philippines in Visual Arts (Painting) in 1976.

Masterpiece: The Builders (1928)

The Builders (1928)
The Builders (1928) – Victorio Edades

Other Famous Works:-

The Sketch (1928)

Mother and Daughter (1926)

#5 Vicente Manansala

Vicente Manansala
Vicente Manansala

Lifespan: January 22, 1910 – August 22, 1981

Vicente Manansala was a prodigious artist who received a six-month grant from UNESCO and was invited to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Quebec, Canada. He is most commonly known for his Cubist paintings, prints and illustration. He was a member of the Thirteen Moderns, which was led by Victorio Edades. As a neo-realist, he became one of the few artists who were responsible for the modernist movement in the country. Primarily, his work was focused on the issues and the problems of the world. Along with this, the Second World War had a great impact on his paintings. National culture, social environment, identity and native sensibility became the epicenter of his works. Along with this, he also worked on some abstract pieces but his main focus remained on using art as a social commentary. Manansala held his first solo exhibition in the year 1951 at the Manila Hotel. His work had an immense influence on the next generation of painters which included Manuel Baldemor and Angelito Antonio. The Honolulu Museum of Art, the Lopez Memorial Museum, Manila and the Philippine Center in New York hold some of his most famous works. He was posthumously awarded the Order of National Artists of the Philippines in Visual Arts (Painting) in the year 1981.

Masterpiece:- Madonna of the Slums (1950)

Madonna of the Slums (1950)
Madonna of the Slums (1950) – Vicente Manansala

Other Famous Works:-

The Bird Seller (1976)

Jeepneys (1951)

#4 Benedicto Cabrera

Benedicto Cabrera
Benedicto Cabrera

Born: April 10, 1942

Benedicto Reyes Cabrera, is regarded as the bestselling painter of his generation of Filipino artists. He was introduced to art by his elder brother Salvador, who was also an established painter. While studying at the University of Philippines, he explored various forms of art which included printmaking and photography. He eventually established his own unique form of painting. Cabrera’s work is essentially figurative and he uses fabrics and patterns to bring to life the figures in his paintings. His work is majorly focused on women, but sometimes also depicts men. In the year 1963, he won the first prize in a student competition for one of his oil painting which is known as the talipapa or a market. His first exhibition of paintings was held in Mabini in the year 1965. After that, he has had exhibitions in New York, London, Paris and in various other cities. Cabrera was awarded the Order of National Artists of the Philippines in Visual Arts (Painting) in the year 2006. He is perhaps the most famous living artist in the Philippines.

Masterpiece: Sabel in Blue (1969)

Sabel in Blue (1969)
Sabel in Blue (1969) – Benedicto Cabrera

Other Famous Works:-

Edo Gesture (1981)

The Oriental Fan (1982)

#3 Guillermo Tolentino

Guillermo Tolentino
Guillermo Tolentino

Lifespan: July 24, 1890 – July 12, 1976

Guillermo Estrella Tolentino, is most famous for his work The Bonifacio Monument, which became the symbol of the freedom struggle of the Philippines. He was said to be a product of the Filipino Art’s revival period of the early and mid-20th century. He was also credited for making the statues of President Quezon and various other life-size busts and marble statues of important figures in the history of Philippines. Some of his smaller sculptors are kept and displayed at the National Museum of Fine Arts. Tolentino designed the seal of the Republic of the Philippines and has also been recognized for designing the gold and the bronze medal for the Ramon Magsaysay Award. He was awarded the Order of National Artists of the Philippines in Visual Arts (Sculpture) in 1973. Along with this, he had also won the UNESCO Cultural Award in Sculpture in 1959, Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award in 1963, the Republic Cultural Heritage award in 1967 and the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1970.

Masterpiece: Bonifacio Monument (1933)

Bonifacio Monument (1933)
Bonifacio Monument (1933) – Guillermo Tolentino

Other Famous Works:-

Oblation (1931)

Pax: Statue (1919)

#2 Juan Luna

Juan Luna
Juan Luna

Lifespan: October 24, 1857 – December 7, 1899

Juan Luna de San Pedro y Novicio Ancheta, who was more commonly known as Juan Luna, is regarded as one of the first internationally renowned Filipino artist. Along with being an artist, he was also a widely known political activist of the Philippine Revolution of the late 19th century. Luna was as one of the first recognized painter and artist in the Philippines. His work was focused on the European academics of his time and therefore, included a lot of depiction of historical and literary scenes. Along with this, there was an underlining of political and social commentary in his works which is highlighted by a slight touch of Romanticism. Theatrical scenes and dramatic poses were also on the forefront of Luna’s work. His paintings are generally pronounced, conspicuous and vigorous. One of his most famous paintings, Spoliarium (1884), was taken to Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid, where Luna was the first recipient of the three gold medals awarded in the exhibition.

Masterpiece: Spoliarium (1884)

Spoliarium (1884)
Spoliarium (1884) – Juan Luna

Other Famous Works:-

The Blood Compact (1886)

The Death of Cleopatra (1881)

#1 Fernando Amorsolo

Fernando Amorsolo
Fernando Amorsolo

Lifespan: May 30, 1892 – April 24, 1972

Fernando Amorsolo spent his childhood in a small town which became the foundation for his artistic career. Having lost his father at the age of 11, his mother worked to make ends meet. At 13, Amorsolo became an apprentice to De la Rosa and from there he began his painting career. He is most famous for his mastery over playing with light. Thus his most well-known style and technique of painting includes illuminated landscapes, which were used to portray the culture, history and the native life of Filipinos. Amorsolo is credited for inventing the ‘backlighting’ technique which he used to highlight the natural light in his paintings. This technique became his trademark and is considered one of his greatest contribution to the Filipino painting culture. Along with this, Amorsolo also made sketches, historical paintings and portraits. During and after the Second World War, his primary style of painting shifted from landscapes to portraying the gruesome nature of war and its devastating effects on the lives of Filipino people. Some of his awards and achievements include the Outstanding University of Philippines Alumnus Award in 1940, a gold medal by UNESCO National Commission in 1959 and the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1963. Fernando Amorsolo is the most famous artist from the Philippines.

Masterpiece: Rice Planting (1951)

Rice Planting (1951)
Rice Planting (1951) – Fernando Amorsolo

Other Famous Works:-

Fruit Gatherer (1950)

Sunday Morning Going to Town (1958)

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