Last 18 September 2012, in celebration of the 202nd Anniversary of the Independence of Chile, the Embassy of Chile and the Energy Development Corporation with the cooperation of the López Foundation launched a splendid exhibit entitled Claudio Bravo: Sojourn in Manila. Featuring an assembly of 41 paintings, the exhibition includes some of the late artist’s portraits of Manila’s distinguished members of high society as well as a couple of exceptional sketches and still-life paintings.
The exhibit was a poignant reminder of Manila’s genteel past. It reflected the calm before the storm, of a dignified city and an elite that tried to distinguish itself from the new, emerging money. Indeed, one can see that those society men and ladies painted by Bravo exuded calm and a rather intentional casualness. Without compromising the old charm of the “ancien regime”, the society figures tried to connect with the hippie era emerging in the late 60s.
The hyperrealist in Bravo brought out the vividness and lushness of color. His use of light gave his works an undeniable charm that enthralled the eyes. Indeed, Bravo claimed that his Manila portraits were his most lucid works.
In a display of force, members of Manila’s original “400” or members of Manila’s original families braved the traffic to attend an affair that celebrated something noble and heroic between Chile and the Philippines. The Ambassador of Chile, His Excellency, Sr. Don Roberto Mayorga emphasized that there is always something lofty when two countries come to celebrate the good that they share. Bravo, no doubt, contributed to the mutual friendship of Chile and the Philippines.
The affair was also a spectacular reunion of Bravo’s beautiful muses among them Regina Dee, Tessie Ojeda Luz, Mari Carmen “Pamen” Elizalde Rxas, Mercedes “Mercy” Reinares Arrastia Tuason, current ambassador to the Holy See, Don Jaime and Doña Beatriz Zóbel de Ayala, Maria Lourdes “Baby” Araneta Forés. Members of the Aranetas, Manahans, Zóbels, Elizaldes and Roxases as well as the Lopezes all graced the event.
The paintings of Bravo and the very event itself, as my professor, Dr. Fernando Nakpil Zialcita said, “fueron recuerdos de los años mas sencillos, cuando Manila era mas refinada”.
The exhibit ends this October at the Metropolitan Museum.