Arturo Luz, National Artist for visual arts, passes away at 94

Arturo Luz (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta/Manila Bulletin)

Filipino painter, sculptor, and National Artist Arturo Luz passed away on May 26, 2021. The news about his demise was announced by his daughter Angela Luz through a Facebook post. He was 94.

"It is with deep sorrow that I announce the passing of my father, our beloved National Artist, Arturo Luz. He peacefully joined his Creator at 8:45 this evening, and I stood by his side as he took his last breath," Angela posted. "We could not have asked for anything more. God blessed my father with 94 of the most wonderful years on earth. He enriched our lives with his art, with his incredible talent and his genius. As a father and a grandfather, he was simply the best. He was the most kind and generous human being. And as a husband to my mother, he was perfect."

Born on Nov. 20, 1926, Arturo honed his artistic skills by studying fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He then pursued international studies at the Art School of the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and at the Académie Grand Chaumiére in Paris.

In the 1950s, the artist began to produce masterpieces centering on the the Philippine life. After a decade, his work took a different approach, presenting a minimalist style and his flair for architectural design. Arturo is best known for being one of the founding members of the modern Neo-Realist school in Philippine art. His aesthetic features different styles and techniques and plays with abstraction and geometry, producing artworks that are sophisticated and simply sublime.

Arturo in the pages of "Filipino Artists in Their Studios" book (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta)

He went on to showcase his works on the international art scene, appearing in events such as the Philippine Cultural Exhibition in New York in 1953, Arte de America y España in 1963, and in Sāo Paolo Biennial in 1971. Among his greatest works is the "Candle Vendor" painting, which sold for HKD 2 million at a Christie's auction. Another is his mural, dubbed "Black and White," which can be seen in the lobby of the Bulwagang Carlos V. Francisco at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Arturo also became a leader in the local art scene. From 1976 to 1986, he was the founding director of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. He also established the Luz Gallery, which has, according to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, "inspired and developed a Filipino artistic community that nurtures impeccable designs."

After decades of his artistic career, Arturo was honored with the National Artist Award in 1997, the highest recognition given to Filipino artists.

Arturo in his final moments (Photo from Angela Luz)

"He will be terribly missed, but will never be forgotten. His legacy will live on, and will last forever," Angela said. "Rest in Eternal Peace, Dad. Be happy in the place where there is no more suffering or pain. Give Mom and Paola a hug from all of us. We love you so much. Thank you for everything!"