In 1948, a 19-year-old Juvenal Sansó enrolled at the UP School of Fine Arts as a special student. It was the first time the young Spaniard would undertake formal training in the arts. Before this, he only studied painting under the tutelage of Alejandro Celis, a contemporary of Fernando Amorsolo at UP and among the first graduates of the university’s fine arts department.
As Alfredo Roces writes in his book Sansó: “The art tutor opened a whole universe to Juvenal…[who] diligently learned every skill his tutor introduced him to until, at last, the tutor told him there was nothing more he could teach the young student at home.”
It was Celis who told Sansó to acquire formal training at UP, despite it being a precarious proposition for the latter to venture formally into the visual arts. According to the book, “his family expected him to outgrow…his dabbling with drawing,” and just “become more serious, and help in the family business."
Sansó would eventually persuade his folks to let him study as a full-time student. He gradually steered himself away from his tasks at the family's wrought-iron shop, giving himself the luxury of time to grow and mature as an artist.
In UP, Sansó was taught by Dominador Castañeda the proper handling of pastels and oils. But it was Amorsolo, then head of the fine arts department, who became the Español’s greatest influence. Although the former did not become his professor, Sansó "wanted to paint like the maestro," as Roces put it in his book.
Since academism prevailed then, with Amorsolo, Castañeda, Herrera, and Miranda at its forefront, Sansó was deeply exposed to the rudiments of the conservative tradition. Two paintings from this particular period find themselves on offer at Leon Gallery’s upcoming The Magnificent September Auction. These are Nude Profile and Young Lady with Fan (Miss Rosales).
These works, both done in 1949, reflect the influences of Amorsolo’s conservative practice on Sansó’s developing artistry.
Of particular note is the second work, in which Sansó paints a sublime image of one of his best friends, the stunning Josephine “Tipin” Rosales. During Sansó’s years at UP, the promising young artist found companions in the likes of Larry Alcala, Rodolfo Ragodon, and Benjamin Ossorio. But Sansó found lifelong friendship with the lovely enchantress believed to be from Tayabas, Quezon.
Like her friend and contemporary Sansó, Rosales was also then a budding artist, but she mainly focused on themes depicting flora and Chinese landscapes. Rosales would also become a good friend to other artists: the theater actress and painter Celia Diaz, among them, Araceli Limcaco Dans, Tessi Dichupa, Cota Deles-Yabut, and Socorro “Corito” Kalaw.
Back in their university years, Rosales was very much admired as a campus beauty. In an October 2002 Philippine Star article by Maurice Arcache, Rosales is described by her granddaughter, Nikki Eleazar, as “groovy and cool, wears Zebra print clothes, and forever retouches her lipstick.” She lightheartedly adds that her lola “sure knows how to have fun with fashion.”
Sansó was not the only artist taken by Rosales’ beauty. She had been immortalized in several portraits by other artists, and this includes Amorsolo, Ireneo Miranda, and Guillermo Tolentino. The famed cartoonist Larry Alcala even produced a comic strip named after her. Tipin was published from 1951 to 1965 in Hiwaga Komiks.
But there is nothing quite like the Sanso portraits, and there are only two. One is of her blanketed by a manton de Manila, her hair gathered at the back and secured with flowers. The other is the 1949 portrait which up for auction this weekend. It depicts Rosales holding a hand fan, thus resembling a dignified empress. Here, her sultry eyes and mesmerizing profile give reason as to why many have been enchanted by her beauty. One can only imagine Rosales as the belle of every ball, a guaranteed head-turner whenever she graced the halls of the fine arts building at UP in the late 1940s.
Co-presented by ANCX, the urban man’s guide to style and culture, The Magnificent September Auction is happening this September 10, 2022, 2 PM, at León Gallery, Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati City. Preview week is up to September 9, 2022, 9 AM to 7 PM. For further inquiries, email email@example.com or contact +632 8856-27-81. To browse the catalog, visit www.leon-gallery.com. Follow León Gallery on their social media pages for timely updates: Facebook - www.facebook.com/leongallerymakati and Instagram @leongallerymakati.