Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Master Dying In Oblivion

Simon Saulog.

He was once called the master of the Filipino Madonnas of the 50s. Mentored by Filipino masters Amorsolo and De La Rosa, Saulog became a popular student artist at the old UP College of Fine Arts and later became a perennial winner in various Art Association of the Philippines contests.

I fondly called him Tata Simon, an expression of respect to elders among barrio folks like me. His name echoed as I stumbled on a digital shot of one of his Madonnas in my PC files. As I was manipulating the shot with Photoshop to give it a modern flair, I began to recall moments with him during my college days. How we first met and how he later became our mentor and adviser in our art group we put up for young hobbyists of the town of Imus in 1984.

I never knew that a master painter of his magnitude existed in my hometown. The excitement and curiousity led to my writing about him and documenting practically what he did then.

I soon learned how he bade the "asphalt jungle" of Manila farewell and he started concentrating on his palette in our rustic hometown. He went on to create canvases that stood out because of the somewhat sepia shades and amazing highlight techniques.

I have wished to learn the technique but failed. The degree of patience is overwhelming. Layers and layers of oil paint are what he gradually and painstakingly did. And this is the artist that modernists once mocked as calendar artist!

I was witness to many of his incomparable labors and to his failing health.

He left this cruel world without fuzz. I doubt if art students of this generation know him. Local art books never mention him. Oh, there was one with "Simon" mispelled as "Simeon".

Simon Saulog died in oblivion like many artists but the stories in his paintings will live on.

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