Fifty Shades of Philippine Art:Damián Domingo
by Luciano P.R. Santiago
Damián Domingo was a self-taught master artist from Tondowhose skilled hand and distinctly Philippine style made him ahighly sought-after painter of official portraits and religious tableaus.His albums of colorfulimmortalized the diverse costumesand lifestyles of early nineteenth-century Philippines. It wasthis expertise and acclaim that led to a trailblazing career as an artteacher and director of the first Philippine art academy. By makingpainting a subject for formal study, Domingo managed to elevate itsstatus as an art form in the Philippines, thus raising the esteem andrespect accorded to Filipino painters. It was perhaps appropriate tohis catalytic role in this stage of Philippine art history that Domingoalso painted the earliest known self-portrait by a Filipino artist.
This lushly illustrated book explores the artist’s life and historicalmilieu through meticulous and engaging scholarship. His survivingmasterpieces, including his rediscovered self-portrait, arereproduced in pristine detail, along with selected works from hiscontemporaries and successors in the art world. These artistic elementsare arranged into a vivid portrait of a man who laid the foundationsof Western art in the Philippines.
Damián Domingo had almost no peer among his contemporaries as apainter in both miniature and large scale. Beyond his stunning religioustableaus and finely rendered portraits, his enduring legacy was manifestin the influence he had on his colleagues and students, and in his unusualcollaboration with a foreign associate that produced the albums of
At a time when painting was commonly viewed as a craft or trade insteadof a high art, Domingo chose not to keep “trade secrets” to himself, but toshare them with as many younger artists as possible, through the first knownart school in the country as well as the first in the Western tradition in Asia.On his own he developed a style comparable to that of an academicallytrained artist in the Spanish tradition, with a distinctly indigenous flair. The“Spanish” style that Domingo taught could be more aptly considered Filipinostyle, having evolved in the Philippines and distilled from the experiences ofnative artists over the centuries. While teaching, he also continued to develophimself as an artist, as seen by his shift from miniature to large scale painting.
Damián Domingo was an era-defining artist who presided over a majorturning point for art in the country. By declaring painting a subject forformal instruction, he raised it to the plane of the noble arts, enablingFilipino painters to elevate their social standing. His school invigorated thePhilippine art world of the early nineteenth century.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A psychiatrist by profession with a degree from theUniversity of the Philippines, College of Medicine andyears of professional practice in the United States andManila, Dr. Luciano P.R. Santiago devoted much time overthe years to archival research. His work has provided thematerial for his numerous books and articles on Philippineart, history, culture, genealogy and other subjects. He wasthe recipient of a Toyota International Research Grant, which enabledhim to conduct his researches in the archives of Spain and the Vatican.
His accolades and awards include the National Book Award for Historyand for Art, the Premio Manuel Bernabé for History, the Pedro VillaseñorAward for Genealogy, and the Catholic Press Award, among others. Hewas also a distinguished medical writer, having been published in localand foreign scholarly journals and received the Wendell Muncie Prize forDistinguished Writing in Psychiatry.