Juan Luna

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Juan Luna is without doubt the most famous and celebrated Filipino artist in the history of Philippines. With iconic and remarkable masterpieces such as ‘Spolarium’, ‘Blood Compact’ and ‘The Death of Cleopatra’, Luna is known for his dynamic and unique style, along with his dramatic and captivating canvases. His work is remembered as one of the principal examples of Romanticism and Realism schools of art. Juan was not just an artist, he was a revolutionary and influential political activist who was an active participant in the Philippine Revolution that took place in the late 19th century.

Juan Novicio Luna was born on October 23, 1857, in the town of Badoc, Ilocos, Philippines, to parents of Don Joaquin Luna de San Pedro y Posadas and Doña Laureana Novicio y Ancheta. Juan came from a large family, and he was the third of seven children. Juan’s interest and passion for art was instigated and fuelled by his brother, Manuel Luna, who himself was a very talented and skilled painter. Juan began attending the Ateneo de Manila, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree, and later, he went on to enroll himself at the Escuela Nautica de Manila, and became a sailor.

However, becoming a sailor by profession did not dissuade Juan from giving free reign to his artistic passions and pursuits to perfect his skill and talent, and thus, he began taking lessons from the notable and influential painting instructor, Lorenzo Guerrero. Later, he enrolled himself at the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura, where he benefited from the tutelage of renowned Spanish artist, Agustin Saez. In 1877, Juan decided to travel to Europe where he would complete his training and education in the art capitals of Europe. He enrolled himself at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.

Juan first major artistic achievement came in 1881, when his iconic and remarkable work, ‘The Death of Cleopatra’, was awarded a silver medal at the Exposicion Nacional de Bellas Artes. Following this, his work began to garner immense fame, public applause and critical acclaim, and he was firmly established as a commercially successful and prolific artist. His talent and unique skill won him much favor with the King of Spain, who was an influential patron and art enthusiast. Juan became a regular contributor to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes, where he won the gold medal in 1884, for his huge and captivating ‘Spolarium’, and in 1887, he contributed his ‘Battle at Lepanto’.

Juan Luna is widely considered as the finest and most influential painter of Philippines, who works are showcased in some of the most prestigious museums of his native country, including the National Museum and the Lopez Museum. Some of his most iconic and famous works include, ‘Mestiza Lady at her Dresser’, ‘Tampuhan’, ‘Roman Ladies’, and ‘The Happy Beauty and the Blind Slave’ among many others.

Despite his commercial success and great talent, Juan’s life is overshadowed by the dark controversies he became involved in because of his jealous disposition and accusations at the loyalty of his wife, whom he accused of having an affair with Monsieur Dussaq, a surgeon. On September 23, 1892, in a blinding rage of jealousy, Juan murdered his wife, his mother-in-law, along with causing serious injuries to his brother-in-law. Juan met his own death in 1899, at the age of 42.

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