When people think of the earliest masters of art in the Philippines, they usually think of the grand canvases of Juan Luna or Felix Resurrección Hidalgo. But there was an earlier master who flourished in the first part of the nineteenth century. Damián Domingo was acclaimed as a portraitist, commissioned by government officials who carried his works home to Spain. For the religious orders he painted rich and lively scenes of saints, angels, and the Holy Family. His illustrated costume albums or tipos del país were in demand as travelers’ souvenirs.
For years, very little was known about this early Filipino master. Only a few of his paintings have survived. Even his ethnicity was left to speculation; because of his respected position as director of the first Philippine art academy, many assumed him to be a Spanish mestizo or even a full-blooded Spaniard. But over the past two decades, new information has emerged to shed light on Domingo’s life, and on the early history of Philippine art.
On 9 December 2010, at 6 p.m., Vibal Foundation will launch The Life, Art, and Times of Damián Domingo at the Ayala Museum. Researcher and author Luciano P.R. Santiago spent years combing through archives and records, where he found the artist’s last will and testament, definitively placing Domingo’s ethnicity as Chinese mestizo. This and other new findings—such as the artist’s rediscovered self-portrait—are published here for the first time, making it the most complete biography on Domingo to date, as well as the first full-length biography on a Filipino master before Luna and Hidalgo. It is lavishly illustrated with the artist’s masterpieces: his surviving portrait miniatures and religious paintings, and the famous albums of colorful Philippine costumes. Also included are artworks by his contemporaries, children, grandchildren, and successors in the art world—many of these from the extensive collections of the Ongpín family, the artist’s direct descendants—with other drawings and photographs which create a vivid picture of the world Domingo lived in.
The Life, Art, and Times of Damián Domingo is part of Vibal Foundation’s Arte Filipino line of art books. This line highlights great Filipino artists, with biographical and in-depth essays by eminent scholars and experts in the field, presented along with sumptuous visuals.