National Museum exhibit honors nat’l artist Guillermo Tolentino

Published July 24, 2020, 12:56 PM

by Hanah Tabios

The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) is celebrating the 130th birth anniversary of National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino, who was born on July 24, 1890.

National Museum of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN

The NMP is honoring Tolentino through a permanent exhibition called “Eskultor ng Lahing Filipino: Honoring the Life and Work of Guillermo Tolentino” located at the Security Bank Hall of the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Originally launched in 2013, the exhibit features some of Tolentino’s rarely seen works from private lenders and from the National Fine Arts Collection, including some self-portraits, a marble sculpture of his daughter Lualhati, and the model and cast for the Commonwealth Triumphal Arch that was never built.

Among his sculptures displayed at the NMP are: The Diwata at the Spoliarium Hall National Museum of Fine Arts; larger than life sculptures of Presidents Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Sr., and Manuel A. Roxas; Venus at the Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. Foyer; and the busts of Dr. Jose Rizal and Leon Maria Guerrero at the National Museum of Natural History.

“Tolentino was widely known for his classical representation of images and his mastery of various media in sculpture such as concrete, plaster, wood, marble, and bronze, among others. Besides being an exceptional artist, he is a musician and a writer. He is known to sign and put titles on his sculptures in baybayin, the traditional Filipino script,” the NMP said in a statement.

Dubbed “Eskultor ng Bayan,” Tolentino was responsible for the Oblation at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, which became a symbol of “selfless offering of oneself to his country.”

The famed National Artist was also the creator of the Bonifacio National Monument in Caloocan City.

Born in Malolos, Bulacan, Tolentino learned drawing from his Thomasite teacher Mrs. H. Bordner. He later moved to Manila to pursue further art studies. In 1915, he graduated from the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts (UP SFA) with fellow artist Fernando Amorsolo, who later on became the first National Artist.

He later travelled to the United States after earning a scholarship through President Woodrow Wilson, and became an assistant to sculptor Gotzun Borglum who created the gigantic faces of four US Presidents in Mount Rushmore.

He also obtained his training in Rome, Italy. In 1925, he returned to the Philippines and later became an arts professor and eventually, Director of the UP SFA.

Tolentino was declared National Artist for Sculpture in 1973.