As women’s month fast approaching along with this month’s National Art celebration, we listed 11 renowned Filipina artists who emerge into the artistic scene, not just here in the country but also across the globe.
Check them out!
1 Pelagia Mendoza y Gotianquin | 1867-1939
Born in the Pateros district of Manila, Pelagia Mendoza was the first female sculptor in the Philippines and was the first female student at the Escuela de Dibujo y Pintura (Drawing and Painting School). She started her artistic journey at an early age. She was interested in art, sketching landscapes, embroidering handkerchiefs, and modeling figures of people and animals. Mendoza further developed her painting skills, especially in landscapes, and had won multiple awards.
She was 22 when she enrolled in art school and by 1892, she received her diploma in painting. Before completing her diploma in sculpture in 1898, Mendoza won her first prize in the Columbus Quadricentennial Art Contest for her wax bust of Christopher Columbus in 1892. She also won a second prize at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
2 Carmen Zaragoza y Rojas | 1867-1943
Known for her masterpiece Dos Inteligencias (Two Intellectuals), Carmen Zaragoza was one of the earliest Filipina artists. This painting won her a prize during the 1892 anniversary of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America. Zaragoza came from an artistic family—her uncle Felix was an architect, while his uncle Felipe was a landscape painter. She also received copper medals during the 1895 Exposición Regional de Filipinas for her two landscape creations.
In the late 19th century, Zaragoza helped established the magazine La Ilustracion Filipina del Oriente, whose founder is her father Jose Zaragoza y Aranquizna.
3 Anita Magsaysay-Ho | 1914-2012
A pioneering Filipina artist, Anita Magsaysay-Ho was one of the first modernists in the country. She studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines under two prominent Filipino classical painters Fernando Amorsolo and Fabian de la Rosa. Ho was best known for her genre scenes, particularly women in angular figures using tempera or oil paints as her medium.
4 Nena Saguil | 1924-1994
Another pioneering female artist Nena Saguil was one of the ten children of Epifanio Saguil and Remedios Laconcio. Her father was the personal physician of former Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon. With regard to her birth date, Saguil claimed to have been born in 1924, but researchers later found out that she was born in 1914.
Saguil studied art at the University of the Philippines, where she and Anita Magsaysay became classmates. After World War II, Saguil found herself drawn to modern art via Pablo Picasso’s creation. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 1949 and started creating satirical portraits and “floral still lifes painted with a light, Impressionist touch.”
Aside from being a pioneering artist, Saguil was also known for being “a feminist, a mystic, and a recluse.”
5 Norma Belleza | 1939-present
A Filipino-Asian Modern & Contemporary painter, Norma Belleza was born in 1939, San Fernando, Pampanga. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas in 1962.
Dark and depressing paintings were apparent in her earlier years as a painter, however, progressed to vivid colors as the years went by. She is known for her detailed work on folk genre, including women vendors, potters, and workers.
In 1976, she had her solo works exhibited at the Metro Gallery and had a couple of more at different galleries, including Luz Gallery and ABC Gallery.
Belleza married fellow artist Angelito Antonio, who is also a modern & contemporary painter.
6 Brenda Fajardo | 1940-present
Brenda Fajardo is a Philippine painter and graphic artist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture at the University of the Philippines, followed by a master’s degree in art education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States.
Fajardo is notable for her tarot card series, where she configured and situated the country’s history and society. Moreover, her artistic interests focus more on the aesthetics of poverty and the art of the people.
Aside from her art creations, Fajardo also founded the Baglan Community Cultural Initiatives and was one of the pioneers of the Philippine Educational Theater Association in the late 1960s. Moreover, she is an adviser to the National Committee on Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
7 Pacita Abad | 1946-2004
A known Ivatan and Filipino visual artist Pacita Abad was a native of Basco, Batanes. She spent the majority of her life dedicated to her painting career. Her early paintings were primarily figurative socio-political works of people and primitive masks. However, her most notable creations were the ones with vibrant, colorful abstract work in large scale canvases.
Prior to her painting career, Abad earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1967. She then flew to the United States to study law in 1972. However, she ended up taking a master’s degree in Asian History at Lone Mountain College. Soon after, she attended Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and The Art Students League in New York City to study painting. Aside from her career, Abad also fell in love with traveling. She lived on six different continents and worked in more than 50 countries.
One of the many artistic contributions and legacy of Abad is her unique trapunto technique painting. She also received numerous international awards, and her art has been showcased in different national collections of at least 70 countries worldwide.
8 Agnes Arellano | 1949-present
Agnes Arellano is a known Philippine sculptor notable for her surrealistic sculptural groupings. Born in Pinaglabanan, San Juan del Monte, Arellano belonged to a prominent family of architects including her father Otilio, her grandfather Arcadio, and grand-uncle Juan.
Arellano earned her psychology degree at the University of the Philippines in 1971, then enrolled in Ateneo de Manila and received her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. However, the experiences she had with her travels led her to art, especially in Paris. The country brought out her love for art and life. Eventually, she pursued Cours de langue et civilization françaises (degré supérieure) at the Université de la Sorbonne and graduated in 1976. She further her studies, proceeding to study fine arts major in sculpture.
9 Imelda Cajipe-Endaya | 1949-present
Imelda Cajipe-Endaya is known for her many artistic mediums including printmaking, painting, and mixed media. She is also an installation artist, curator, and art projector organizer. Moreover, Endaya authored several books and co-founded KASIBULAN, an artist collective in the Philippines. Endaya initiated the PANANAW Philippine Journal of Visual Arts as well and was the first editor.
Born in Manila, Endaya attended the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts and earned her bachelor’s degree in Advertising Art in 1970. She then studied History and Criticism in 1976-77.
10 Karen Ocampo Flores | 1966-present
Known for her feminist-themed paintings, Karen Flores earned her fine arts degree at the University of the Philippines in Diliman in 1989. She majored in painting and has emerged in the Philippine contemporary art scene. Following her first solo exhibition in 1994, Flores received various awards and grants and became an artist-in-residence at the Australian Regional Exchange held in Perth.
11 Joy Mallari | 1966-present
A contemporary painter and visual artist, Joy Mallari took up her bachelor’s degree at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts around the 1980s. She is best known for her visual style closely similar to figurative expressionism. This type of artistic style is common among the members of the Grupong Salimpusa and Sanggawa art movements, however, distinguished with her narrative approach.
Mallari is further known for her exploring themes on the identity and marginalization in the Philippines society.