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 Anita Corpus Magsaysay-Ho  (1914 - 2012)

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Lived/Active: New York/Michigan / Philippines/China      Known for: modernist female figure genre painting, sculpture

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Biography from Geringer Art, Ltd.:
Anita Magsaysay-Ho is a Philippine painter, considered by many to be one of the most important and gifted Philippine modernists.  In 1958, a panel of experts assembled by the Manila Chronicle named her one of the 6 most outstanding painters in Philippine history.  Magsaysay-Ho’s best known canvases, which often have both realist and stylized aspects, celebrate the beauty of Philippine women engaged in everyday tasks.

Magsaysay-Ho was born in Manila in May, 1914, the daughter of Ambrosio Magsaysay, an engineer, and Armilla Corpus.  Anita’s first cousin, Ramon Magsaysay, served as President of the Philippines from December of 1953 until his death in a 1957 plane crash.  As an undergraduate at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts, she studied with Fabian de la Rosa, Vicente Rivera y Mir and also Fernando and Pablo Amorsolo.  She also studied at the UP’s School of Design where her instructors included Victorio Edades and Enrique Ruiz.

In the 1930s Anita Magsaysay traveled to the United States where she continued her studies at the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. Anita also took courses in oil painting, and drawing at the Art Student’s League in New York City.  While in New York, Anita met her future husband, Robert Ho, who was also a student. After their marriage, he bought postwar ships in the United States and brought them to China where he established a shipping business: Magsaysay Inc. 

Because of her husband’s work, the Hos and moved frequently, living in Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong and Japan. Anita, who has moved over 40 times in her lifetime, was soon raising five children. Anita was painting whenever possible, and always had a home studio where her children would sketch, play the piano and listen to music while she painted.

During the early 1940s Magsaysay - Ho's works showed the influence of Fernando Amorsolo both in their subject matter and their luminosity . Gradually, her paintings evolved towards modernism as they moved towards cubist distortion and evolved stylized visual rhythms.  She was included on a list of “Thirteen Moderns” compiled by artist Victor Edades.

In the 1950s Magsaysay-Ho exhibited at the important Philippine Art Gallery (PAG) which brought her public attention and acclaim. Her work was grouped with that of other Neo-Realists including Lydia Arguilla and Nena Saguil. Anita’s paintings of this period featured women at work: harvesting fruit, gathering and sheaving grain, or selling fish in the marketplace. Her works were formally activated by bold brushwork and strong contrasts of dark and light tones.

In the 1960s the space of Magsaysay-Ho’s paintings opened up and the resulting images were more relaxed, with clearly articulated and separated figures. The lines in her work softened, and her modeling became more consistent. These paintings have the feeling of being choreographed, and are very graceful in their effect.

In the 1970s Magsaysay-Ho explored a new style influenced by Chinese calligraphy. Her paintings were often decorated with delicately controlled ink blots that suggested rock formations, vegetation or waves. At their best, they balanced human gestures with the calligraphic interest provided by the ink blots.

In the late 1980’s the artist had a “Green Period.” Green-hued fruit and vegetables mingle with female figures that seem to resemble plants or fruits themselves. The women in these paintings feature oval faces with high cheekbones and narrow eyes. Another series that followed the green paintings featured half figures surrounded by baskets, fruit and birds. These figures are solid and highly refined, rendered in an Asian palette that counter-balanced stark contrasts between colors such as burnt sienna and yellow-green.

Now in her nineties, Magsaysay-Ho is the subject of a biography by Alfredo Roces, In Praise of Women, published in 2005.  She states, in the text; “In my works I always celebrate the women of the Philippines. I regard them with deep admiration and they continue to inspire me—their movements and gestures, their expressions of happiness and frustration; their diligence and shortcomings; their joy of living. I know very well the strength, hard work and quiet dignity of Philippine women, for I am one of them.”

Biography from Tobin Reese Fine Art:
Anita Magsaysay-Ho is known for her Modernist paintings celebrating rustic Filipino women. She is credited with the development of Neo-Realist painting in her country, and is considered one of the Thirteen Moderns of Philippine Art, which included Victorio Edades, Carlos Francisco, Galo Ocampo and Vicente Manansala. Collectively, these artists challenged the conservative status-quo of art in the Philippines during the 1950s.

Born in Manila in 1914, she would go on to study at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts and the Atelier of Modern Art, where she was taught by artists such as Fernando Amarsolo and Victorio Edades. After World War II she went to the United States to study at the Art Students League of New York, and later, at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. In her studies she learned new techniques, such as egg tempera, photograms, and woodcuts, which she would bring back to the Philippines and incorporate into the modern art movement. While in New York she also met Robert Ho, whom she married in 1947. Together, the couple would live all over the world; including New York, Washington D.C., Hong Kong, Sao Paolo, Tokyo, Vancouver, Montreal, and Manila.

Magsaysay-Ho earned numerous accolades over her long career as an artist. In the 1950 Manila Grand Opera House Exhibition she won first prize for Five Senses and second prize for Fish Vendors in 1952. At the Art Association of the Philippines annual exhibition she won prizes for The Cooks in 1952, The Fruit Vendors in 1953, Mending the Nets in 1959, Two Women in 1960, and Trio in 1962. In 1999, her painting In the Marketplace sold at a record high price for a living Filipino artist. She also became well-known for her nude drawings done in charcoal, and wrote poetry as well. In May of 2012, at the age of 97, Anita Magsaysay-Ho died in Manila.

Source:
Jeff Blackwell for Tobin Reese Fine Art

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