The late National Artist for Visual Arts Cesar Legaspi is considered as the country’s pioneer neo-realist, and revered for refining cubism in the Philippines. His centenary will be celebrated on April 2.
Using “geometric” fragmentation technique, Legaspi created social commentary based on the current state of the country. Some of his most iconic works that speak strongly of social ills, among others, include “The Survivor,” “Gadgets,” and “Descent.”
It was in 1990 when President Corazon Aquino conferred the National Artist Award to then 73-year-old Legaspi.
Despite his renown in the art world, many Filipinos do not know that the master actually suffered from colorblindness.
At the kickoff of Legapi’s yearlong centennial celebration—dubbed “100 Years of Cesar Legaspi”—at the National Museum, the artist’s eldest child, Dennis, detailed that their father would see browns instead of reds and oranges instead of greens.
The artist’s daughter, noted singer Celeste Legaspi, meanwhile, shared how they would even help their father identify colors when he was painting.
She further shared that when her father finally left his job in advertising and went full time as a painter, Mang Cesar—as he was fondly called—would follow a strict schedule, the way he did when he was still in an ad. Legaspi would paint all day.
“He would always ask for puto bumbong and bibingka during his breaks,” Celeste fondly recalled.
The OPM legend further shared that his father always had music on in his studio, and once in a while, she would sing for him as he painted his masterpieces. His favorite was Celeste’s rendition of “La Vie en Rose,” which she endearingly sang during the event.
Besides reminiscing and sharing their accounts of the great Mang Cesar, the artist’s family launched “Friends of Legaspi,” an organization that aims to endear art patrons to support the late artist’s centennial celebration.
Among the activities included are three major exhibits throughout the year, namely Lying In State, which will run from April 2 to June 4 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines; A Man and His Relations at the University of the Philippines Bulwagan ng Dangal from June 13 to August 10; and, State of Grace at BPI 1851 in Makati come December.
Ultimately, they hope to build the Legaspi Art Center in honor of Mang Cesar at the family property in San Jose, Batangas.
The art center is envisioned to cater to local and international artists, working in various media, who wish to have their fellowship in the property. Furthermore, the Legaspi Art Center will open its doors to community-based art programs.
In parting, the family wished that through the series of activities and with the help of social media, they will be able to share the art and greatness of Cesar Legaspi to the new generation and the new ones to come.