Books & Art

National Artist Arturo Luz Passes Away at 94

A great loss to Philippine culture and art.
IMAGE NCCA
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Arturo Luz—painter, sculptor and visual artist—passed away on Wednesday (May 26), his daughter confirmed in a Facebook post. He was 94 years.

Born in Manila on November 20, 1926, Luz studied Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas and later on pursued further studies at the Art School of the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and at the Académie Grade Chaumière in Paris. He also received a diploma from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in 1994. 

Luz held his first exhibition in 1951 and has exhibited his works in multiple cities across the globe throughout his career. According to Artnet.com, Luz was a founding member of the modern neo-realist school in Philippine art. “Influenced by Modernist painters such as Paul Klee, he has worked in a variety of styles and techniques in varying degrees of abstraction to create playful geometric figures and forms.”

Fellow neo-realist Fernando Zobel was famously quoted as saying that Luz was “a painter’s painter.” In 1960, he established the Luz Gallery, where art pieces crucial to the modern art movement have been exhibited through the years. He was also the founding director of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, and served in that position from 1976 to 1986.

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Luz “created masterpieces that exemplify an ideal of sublime austerity in expression and form,” according to his profile in the website of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). “From the Carnival series of the late 1950s to the recent Cyclist paintings, Luz produced works that elevated Filipino aesthetic vision to new heights of sophisticated simplicity.”

Luz has won numerous awards throughout his career, including first prize at the First International Art Salon in Vietnam in 1962; an award from the California Art Association; the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for painting conferred by the Philippine government in 1966; and the conferment of the Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French government in 1978, among many others

He was named National Artist for Visual Arts (Painting) in 1997.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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