Victorio C. Edades

Victorio C. Edades

Victorio C. Edades (December 13, 1895 - March 7, 1985) is a Filipino painter who was the leader of the revolutionary Thirteen Moderns who engaged their classical compatriots in heated debate over the nature and function of art. He was named a National Artist in 1976.


Victorio Edades was born on December 23, 1895 to Hilario and Cecilia Edades. He was the youngest of ten children (six of whom died of smallpox). He grew up in Barrio Bolosan in Dagupan, Pangasinan. His artistic ability surfaced during his early years. By seventh grade, his teachers were so impressed with him that he was dubbed “apprentice teacher” in his art class. He was also an achiever from the very beginning, having won awards in school debates and writing competitions.

After high school, Edades and his friends traveled to the United States. Before enrolling in Seattle, Edades incidentally made a detour to Alaska and experienced working in a couple of factories. Nonetheless, he moved on to Seattle and enrolled at the University of Washington where he took up architecture and later earned a Master of Fine Arts in Painting. The significant event that stirred Edades, and made him as what he is known now, was his encounter with the traveling exhibition from the New York Armory Hall. This art show presented modern European artists such as Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and the Surrealists. His growing appreciation to what he saw veered him away from the conservative Impressionistic and Realistic schools and thus he began to paint in the modern manner. The two former schools of thought were inclined more towards idyllic subject matter, and require a mastery of refined detailing. What attracted Edades to the modernist movement was its principle to go beyond the idealistic exteriors propagated by Impressionism and Realism. Modernist thought encourages experimentation in artistic expression and allows the artist to present reality as he sees it in his own way.

During his sojourn to America, he also participated in art competitions one of which was the Annual Exhibition of North American Artists. His entry The Sketch (1927) won second prize. When he returned to the Philippines in 1928, he saw that the state of art was “practically dead.” Paintings he saw dealt with similar themes and were done in a limited technique which mostly followed Amorsolo’s. He recognized that there was no creativity whatsoever, and that the artists of that time were merely “copying” each other. So in December, Edades bravely mounted a one-man show at the Philippine Columbia Club in Ermita to introduce to the masses what his modern art was all about. He showed thirty paintings, including those which won acclaim in America. It was a distinguished exhibit, for the Filipino art circle was suddenly shaken by what this young man from Pangasinan had learned from his studies abroad. Viewers and critics were apparently shocked and not one painting was sold.

Edades helped organized the University of Sto. Tomas Department of Architecture in 1930 and was its acting head. In 1935, he was appointed as Director of the UST College of Architecture and Fine Arts, which he organized under the wing of Architecture. He was guided by the existing American curricula when he made the Fine Arts curriculum for UST. Alongside standard subjects like drawing, painting and composition, he also included Western and Oriental art history, foreign languages and optional science subjects such as zoology and botany. Because of Edades, UST became the forerunner of Modern Art, while the University of the Philippines remained the precursor of conservative art.

By 1938, he opened up the Atelier of Modern Art at the M. H. Del Pilar, Manila together with Diosdado Lorenzo and Galo Ocampo. He also organized the School of Design with Juan Nakpil in 1940.

While espousing his beliefs and ideas on Modern Art, Edades sparked a debate between modern and academic (classical) art. The Herald Mid-Week Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine and This Week contained the issues addressed by him and Guillermo Tolentino, who spoke up for the side of the Conservatives. Another development in the art scene, which was spearheaded by Edades, was the formation of the “Thirteen Moderns.” The list included Edades, Carlos Francisco, Galo Ocampo, Lorenzo, Vicente Manansala, HR Ocampo, Anita Magasaysay, Cesar Legaspi, Demetrio Diego, Ricarte Purugganan, Jose Pardo, Bonifacio Cristobal and Arsenio Capili. Coming up with this list was an attempt to form a cohesive unit of artists who were in search of a modern style.Other achievements by Edades included him receiving the Pro Partia award during the Rizal Centennial Celebration in 1961. In 1964, Edades was given the Araw ng Maynila Award in Painting. In 1976, he was conferred the National Artist Award in Painting. On February 12, 1977, UST conferred on Edades the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa.

Edades retired to Davao City with his family. There he taught for a time at the Philippine Women’s College and resumed his career as an artist. He died on March 7, 1985.

Artistic Development

Early styles after his stint in architecture already show his inclination towards modernist technique. In The Market and The Picnic, his choice of subject matter do not take flight from pleasant daily scenery; yet his brush strokes and observance of non-proportionality in the figures made his teachers consider him “very ambitious.” His earlier works already showed his affinity towards the style of Cezanne and other Post-Impressionists.

The height of his artistic development is his dynamic entry into Philippine art in 1928 with his solo exhibit at the Philippine Columbia Club. Here he mounted his most renowned work, The Builders. This work is the sum total of all the other pieces included in the show. They are a far cry from the works of the Amorsolo and the Classicists who painted bright cheery scenes of flawless Filipinos and their idealized daily routines. Edades, on the other hand, presented figures in muddy earth colors – yellow ochres and raw sienna accented by bold black contours. Subjects are distorted figures (those whose proportions defy classical measure), and Edades’ brush strokes are agitated and harsh. The choice of his subject also caused quite a stir to those who viewed the show. He portrayed tough, dirty construction laborers and simple folk wrestling in dung and dust. Even his nudes are nothing like Amorsolo’s portrayal of the Filipina at her best.

With the uproar Edades’ ideas raised, he knew that he cannot make a living out by merely painting what he wished. So he got by producing commissioned works, particularly murals. He did murals for prominent individuals (like Juan Nakpil) and institutions.His later works are said to be ‘flatter.’ His portraits and genre paintings in Davao are not seen to be as heavy or solid as his earlier phase with The Builders. From Cezanne, Edades grew more interested in the style of Utamaro of Japan and other artists whose charm is in color rather than solidity.

By introducing modern ideas into the Philippine art scene, Victorio Edades managed to destroy the conventions of domestic art and also got rid of the clichéd ideology which he believed have stunted the development of Philippine art. His defiance to what the Conservatives structured as ‘art’ was a conscious call for real artistic expression. He attested that “art is ever the expression of man’s emotion, and not a mere photographic likeness of nature. Thus to express his individual emotion, the artist is privileged to create in that distinctive form which best interprets his own experience. And the distortion of plastic elements of art such as line, mass and color – is one of the many ways of expressing one’s rhythmic form.” That was the reason why his disproportionate figures are made that way – for the sake of composition.

Through his continuous propagation of modern art as shown in his works and teachings, Edades proved that modernists were not fooling people as Guillermo Tolentino asserted. Dialectically, Edades explained that Modern Art is not anti-Classicist. He said, “From the technical point of view, Modern Art is an outgrowth of Classical Art. Modern Art is the interpretation of the Classical concept conditioned by the artist’s new experience with the aid of improved means of aesthetic expression.” Not conforming to the academic perception of art, he made art available to the common man. Through his determination to stand by his ideology, he became a bridge between the past and the present.

Major works

* The Sketch (National Museum Collection)
* The Builders (CCP Collection)
* The Artist and the Model
* Portrait of the Professor
* Japanese Girl
* Mother and Daughter
* The Wrestlers
* Poinsettia Girl

The Other Moderns

Galo B. Ocampo; Carlos V. Francisco (National Artist, 1973); Vicente Manansala (National Artist, 1981); H.R. Ocampo (National Artist, 1991); Cesar Legaspi (National Artist, 1990); Demetrio Diego; Diosdado Lorenzo; Jose Pardo; Ricarte Purugganan; Bonifacio Cristobal; Arsenio Capili; Anita Magsaysay-Ho.


Benesa, Leo. "Victorio Edades." 2002. National Commission for Culture and the Arts. April 13 2004 [] . An excerpt from What is Philippine about Philippine Art? and Other Essays. Manila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2000. Reprinted from Weekend, September 21 1979, 4.

"Philippine Contemporary Art as a Post-War Phenomenon." 2002. National Commission for Culture and the Arts. April 13 2004 [] . An excerpt from "What is Philippine about Philippine Art? and Other Essays". Manila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2000. Reprinted from Verlag Neves Forum, 1970.

Deocampo, Nick. "Edades: Victorio C. Edades and Modernism in Philippine Art." [Manila] : National Commission for Culture and the Arts Commission on Galleries, [2004] .

Guerrero, Amadis Ma. and Purita Kalaw-Ledesma. "Edades: National Artist". Makati: Published for Security Bank & Trust Co. by Filipinas Foundation, c1979.

Ingle, Lydia Rivera. "Edades: kites and visions". Quezon City: New Day Publishers, c1980.

Paras-Perez, Rod. "Edades and the 13 moderns". Manila : Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1995.

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