by Santiago Albano Pilar
A definite pride of race and place characterized many of the works of Isabelo Tampinco, who during the time of Rizal, Luna, and Hidalgo stood out as the master of the art of sculpture. Much in demand among Spaniards and Filipinos alike, the sculptures and carvings he created adorned many churches, public edifices, and homes—in particular, the Church of San Ignacio in Intramuros, the interior of which showcased his beautiful woodwork. Tampinco endeavored to create a distinct Filipino style by infusing his carvings and sculptures with native motifs, notably the anahaw, areca palm, and bamboo—a style which would later come to be called by his own name.
In the book The Life and Art of Isabelo Tampinco, Santiago Albano Pilar explores the life of Isabelo Tampinco, his accomplishments in art, and the influences that molded the style he created. While Tampinco walked with such luminaries as Rizal and Luna, his world was that of the artists of late nineteenth to early twentieth-century Quiapo and Santa Cruz. Unlike the propagandistas, these artists had not been educated abroad, yet they strove just as valiantly to be recognized alongside their European counterparts. His sons Vidal and Ángel, talented artists in their own right, were trained by him and carried on his legacy and distinctive style after his death.
The ravages of war obliterated much of his work; yet what remains, as showcased here, confirms Tampinco’s status as one of the greats of his time. This book contains a comprehensive gallery of Tampinco’s extant works, as well as archival photographs of his lost masterpieces.
Without a doubt, Isabelo Tampinco left a legacy that cements his place as the greatest Filipino sculptor of the nineteenth century. Plaster, wood, and marble gave him an easy and affordable way to create fine sculptures. And there lies his greatness, in the democratization of the high arts. This book is a most welcome contribution to the dearth of scholarly information on Tampinco.
Curator and Art Critic