National Artist for Visual Arts Carlos “Botong” Francisco is considered one of the Philippines’ most distinguished muralists. He created enormous canvasses that chronicled the mythical world of the Filipino and its history, often seeking inspiration from tradition, folklore, myths, legends, and customs. While much has been said and written about Botong Francisco as a great artist, what was he like as a father to his three children or as a friend by his contemporaries? Keepsakes such as personal letters can provide more insight into Botong Francisco as a person.
As part of the ongoing celebration of life, work, and influence of Botong Francisco on the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Yuchengco Museum presents a new exhibition that paints a more intimate portrait of the renowned muralist. Up Close and Personal: Botong Francisco through Lenses and Letters brings together original correspondence from the Francisco family collection and photographs of the National Artist by lensman Dick Baldovino. The exhibit can be seen from January 25 to April 30, 2013.
Born in Angono, Rizal in 1912, Carlos “Botong” Francisco studied at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts under the tutelage of portraitist and genre painter Fabian de la Rosa. In his early adult life, he worked as a layout artist and illustrator, and then as a collaborator with modern painters Galo Ocampo and Victorio Edades on commissioned murals. In 1938, he pioneered as an instructor at the newly established University of Sto. Tomas School of Architecture and Fine Arts. In the 1940s, he frequently worked with filmmaker Manuel Conde as a screenwriter, costume designer, and set designer. Francisco passed away in 1969 at the age of 57, and was posthumously declared National Artist for Visual Arts in 1973.
On exhibit are select black and white portraits of Botong Francisco, as well as photographs of the artist working in his studio or enjoying the company of his friends and family. The snapshots were taken by friend and photojournalist Dick Baldovino, who was a key figure in the development of Philippine photography to a profession and graphic art. Baldovino is also known for his portraits of the country’s first National Artists, and his images for numerous books on Philippine art.
Also on view are original letters by Botong Francisco written between 1966, while he was working on his series of commissioned murals entitled Filipino Struggles through History for Manila City Hall, and 1969, the year of his death. Most of the letters are addressed to his eldest child, Carmen, who was then studying and working in the United States. The exhibit includes correspondence to an American priest and friend, Father Yeo.