Amorsolo’s “Fruit Harvesting” and the Life of the People

Have our peasants shown the same delightful faces during harvests since the war years ended? Is the same reason to celebrate a bountiful harvest still found in their hearts?

Davao Today
Posted by Bulatlat

Davao City—Ten years after a fieldtrip during my kindergarten years, I visited Davao Museum again on a Saturday morning. I would not have bothered if not for Amorsolo’s satellite exhibit. The entrance fee piqued me a bit. It made me think that museums are not really for the common folk but for tourists who would like to see in a capsule the city’s history.

A museum is, for me, a repository of antiquities. It somehow reminds us about the people who used to live in this city. Found in the museum are their weapons, musical instruments, implements, wardrobes and jewelries that have survived the torments of time. The tableaux of Bagobos performing a Ginum, a pre-planting festival, to which Amorsolo’s Fruit Harvesting is linked, made me seek the deeper meaning of Art.

Fruit Harvesting, one of the paintings of the National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, was created in 1950, five years after the Japanese invasion in 1945. It depicts how life had been for Filipino peasants prior to the war years. Looking at the reproduction, which will be on display at the Davao Museum until January 13, 2009, brings not a nostalgic feeling but wishful thinking.

Have our peasants shown the same delightful faces during harvests since the war years ended? Is the same reason to celebrate a bountiful harvest still found in their hearts? I can still see in the Davao barrios farmers plowing with carabaos fields owned by big landlords, or harvesting bananas for exports while consuming root crops for their families’ survival. It is seldom that I find paintings dwelling on these conditions. I have never been to any museum that shows how historically Filipinos suffer through the long periods of colonization and poverty, and struggle for national liberation.

Some may say that art could not portray those realistic scenes. These scenes could not give aesthetic pleasure because it is depressing. But what is art anyway? “L’art pour l’art,” credited to Théophile Gautier (1811–1872), which means “art for art’s sake,” justifies that any work of art does not need any justification. Anyone then can be an artist by his or her own value of aesthetics. But is art for aesthetics alone? Is it some kind of passion or remedy for an artistic soul who seeks freedom and identity? Is there such thing as “art for art’s sake”?

A Chinese visionary said, “There is in fact no such thing as art for art’s sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics…” Amorsolo’s Fruit Harvesting belongs to the basic masses for it expresses the simple lifestyle of the Filipino farmers. Amorsolo’s exhibit and the Ginum tableaux that are found in the museum, not only brings back the memory of abundance and peace, but also stirs our consciousness towards the current socio-economic and political conditions.

I might not have the same appreciation of this museum ten years ago. But I hope those students who had the privilege to visit this place have the same realization. I hope they will not merely be awed by those artistic collections. They should also visit our barrios to see the picture of our communities that are still struggling with inequities rooted in history.

Paintings and other works of art greatly influence people’s mind. Art does not just keep memories of the past but also inspires and brings hope for a better future. Museums are worth visiting, as well as the real creators of our history—the common people in the barrios. Davao Today/Posted

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