Larawan at Litrato: Foto-óleo and Picture Portraits in the Philippines (1891-1953)

Larawan at Litrato: Foto-óleo and Picture Portraits in the Philippines (1891-1953)

Larawan at Litrato: Foto-óleo and Picture Portraits in the Philippines (1891-1953) was one of the first programs launched by the National Museum of the Philippines to celebrate Museum and Galleries Month in 2020. This exhibition initially featured 47 foto-óleos and 7 other portraiture types from the National Fine Arts Collection and some loaned from Metro Manila, Marinduque, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Bohol, and Ilocos Sur. Foto-óleo is an art form popular during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, prior to the invention of color photography. It was executed by applying oil paint directly on black and white photographs to make it more life-like and visually pleasing.

While the practice may be traced in Europe and the Americas, foto-óleo artmaking was adopted by artists in the Philippines and made them their own, turning unique portraits that highlighted jewelry, rosary beads and medals. Artists in Negros may have invented the decoupage style of portraiture, on which painted headshot photographs were fixed on shaped wood and framed and glazed on both sides. In the course of our research, we found that foto-óleos were especially popular among prominent Filipino families. These were mainly kept by succeeding generations in family homes, serving as memento of loved ones. Among the photographic studios in which they were produced were Filipino, Hollywood Art, Luz, Luzon, Sabater, Tinsay Art, United Portrait Artists, Venus and X’or Studios. These were located in various commercial districts of Manila, such as Escolta and Binondo. Among the artists who signed their works were Fabian de la Rosa, Ramon Resurrección Peralta, Jaime de Jesus, and Greg Jose. An exceptional foto-óleo is our exhibition centerpiece, La Perla de Lucban (1891) by De la Rosa when it was loaned from the family of the late Dr. Luciano P. R. Santiago whose memory we honor in this exhibition.

360 Virtual Tour:

Time & Location

National Museum of the Philippines

Special Exhibition Hall – Gallery VII, National Museum of Fine Arts, P. Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, Manila