Cultural Center of the Philippines


The Builders

1928 / Oil on canvas / Approximately 1,050 x 3,670 cm / Artist: Victorio Edades / Cultural Center of the Philippines Collection

Upon returning to the Philippines from studies in the United States, Edades sought to change the course of Philippine art, which was then dominated by the masters Fernando Amorsolo in painting, and Guillermo Tolentino in sculpture. His first step in his campaign for modernism was to hold a one-man show at the Philippine Columbian Club in Ermita, Manila.

The Builders was one of Edades’s major works exhibited at his 1928 one-man show. Here the subject was far removed from Amorsolo’s images of the countryside. Shown is a group of builders working to construct an edifice. The setting is not specific; neither do the builders have individualizing features. Edades emphasized linear and structural composition above other pictorial elements in his work. His mural, basically a horizontal composition, is composed of a semicircle mesh of bodies at the center, closed in by isolated figures on both the left and right edges. Almost no negative space is left on the canvas; neither are there any bright hues, the painting being entirely in shades of gray and brown.

The artist fit in the human figures by means of distortion and changes in scale and proportion to the general design. There is a horizontal line and instead of a gradual recession, the scale abruptly changes from the big foreground figures to the row of men in the background pulling on a rope. Also new are the bold contours and the painterly brushwork, which does not conceal its passage and produces a rough texture instead of the usual smoothness of surface. In a style that is representational but not realist, Edades was concerned with conveying the essence of men engaged in labor through the contortions of the bodies.