Lot 1067
  • 1067

Vicente Silva Manansala

1,800,000 - 2,800,000 HKD
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  • Vicente Silva Manansala
  • Flight (Whirr Series)
  • Signed and dated 75
  • Oil on canvas


Acquired directly from the artist by Rene and Gilda Grande
Acquired by the Present Owner from the above
Private Asian Collection


The work is in good condition overall. The paint layers are healthy and colours are bright. Examination under ultraviolet light shows minor signs of light retouching predominately on the surface of the painting, but this is not visible with the naked eye. Framed.
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Catalogue Note

Much of art history is an evolution of styles and motifs appropriated and rebirthed within localized contexts. Vicente Silva Manansala is one such individual whose personal application of Cubist aesthetics resulted in his highly respected “Transparent Cubism” methodology that is evident throughout the artist’s oeuvre. Set within a specific Filipino framework, the paintings provide insight into Manansala’s values, as well as the principles that governed his life. The narratives are predominantly “visions of reality teetering on the edge of abstraction1. The primal quest for beauty is what inspired him to paint. Favored motifs that the artist repeatedly returned to were the mother and child archetype, village scenes, and the natural landscape.

Art is a very jealous thing—one must live it fully; there is nothing halfway about it. To be an artist is to experience, to feel every emotion possible”, he said. “An artist must know love and joy, he must know what it is to hate and feel sorrow. I believe one cannot be known without the other. An artist must know hate before he can love, and unhappiness before he can truly know happiness2.

The present painting entitled Flight is part of the Whirr Series that is a collection of works depicting the animal in various states of flight. Representative of liberty, freedom, and friendship, the incorporation of birds as a repeated motif in the paintings is demonstrative of these values within Manansala’s belief system. The dichotomy of the white birds against the orange, red, and blue background further elevates the animals’ presence from the painting, as if they will soon take flight from the canvas itself. The size of the painting also heightens this sense of grandeur, fusing the lines between fantasy and reality of the scene at hand.

Created during the height of his career when the “Transparent Cubism” technique was reaching maturity and solidifying his talent as a Cubist artist, Flight is a visual celebration of a flock of doves as they soar and fly off into the sky. “Birds in Paris reminded me of my boyhood in Intramuros. I used to pass by San Francisco Church. The birds would be flying in flocks, whirling. I started painting them after I got back from Paris. The checkered floor is to suggest depth”, the artist said3. By combining the energy of doves in flight together with visions of the Holy Spirit, Flight is a culmination of Manansala’s upbringing paired with his own aesthetics. It is an exceptional piece from the Whirr Series, the rich colors and composition transforming the painting into a visual study of aerial poetry, with the flock of birds ready to rise up into the heavens.

There is distinct sense of movement within all of his paintings, a gentle rhythm that pulsates and elevates the subjects from their activities and interactions. Partly due to the translucency of colors and the overlapping of shapes that creates depth in the narratives, this sense of motion is prevalent throughout Manansala’s body of works. The painting Flight continues with such themes. The animal is the physical embodiment of movement. Together with the animal in mid-flight, ready to soar away, he is essentially trying to capture the essence of life itself. As quoted by French writer Emile Zola and actualized in Manansala’s paintings, the artist sought to express “nature [as] seen through a temperament: nature imbued with feelings4.

Both Picasso and Paul Cezanne had a great influence upon Manansala’s art education. The former for his Cubist aesthetics and compositions, while the latter artist’s still life paintings mirrored Manansala’s want to convey the world that he inhabited and chose to paint. Akin with other Cubist artists, he remained fascinated by the linear beauty of shapes and forms, learning how to appropriate the external landscape into a specific paradigm. Other artists whose philosophies he took to heart were Fernand Leger and George Braque. However, Cezanne had the greatest influence upon his relationship with reality. The French artist’s study on apples, diligently painting them in the still life works, finds itself replicated in Manansala’s Whirr Series where the artist strived to represent the life force of the very animals he chose to paint.

During Manansala’s youth, the Philippines were experiencing an artistic revolution, with traditional styles abandoned and replaced by avant-garde theories. When he was a child it was Fernando Amorsolo whose bucolic paintings of the Filipino countryside, women, and sunsets, were the defining force that fueled the country’s artistic expression. These nationalistic paintings portrayed a certain viewpoint that celebrated the natural charm of the country and the people. Distinct in style and faithful to the public’s creative vocabulary, these works provided a narrative of the country’s identity during that period.

As an aspiring artist, he also adhered to the country’s artistic styles, painting local women and the village landscape. However, Manansala discovered that it was the very colors and textures of the paint that interested him, rather than merely replicating the external world within a beautified narrative. In 1950, the artist was rewarded a grant by the French government to study in Paris. He soon found himself under the tutorage of Fernand Leger, learning about Cubism from one of the French modern masters. France had a defining impact on the artist’s creative vision, and together with familiarizing himself with Cubist ideology, Manansala’s relationship with the city inspired the works created after this period. The painting Flight is perhaps an extension of his time abroad, finding similarities with the doves outside a French cathedral together with the ones found at San Francisco Church that he knew very well as a child.

Surpassing the cultural aesthetics of Amorsolo’s paintings, Manansala soon cultivated his own painterly style, and it was “Transparent Cubism” that would establish the artist as a national modern artist in the Philippine’s history of art. As seen in the present painting, the birds are reflective of Cubist aesthetics: their shapes slightly geometrical and reminiscent of origami birds, the motion of their wings in flight vaguely angular, while the overlapping of their bodies provides the scene with a translucent, weightless quality overall.

What produces the work actually is what takes place inside me. When I paint, a great deal happens. There is the subject, the canvas and the tools but it is what takes place inside me that produces the work. I start with a feeling. I see something, and if I feel strongly enough about it, I think of a way of attacking it. I paint not what I see but what I feel”, the artist said5.

Manansala received a Smith-Mundt-Specialist Grant in 1960 to study stain glass making in New York City. Though he did not produce actual stain glass works, the experience and education found themselves reproduced in later works. Created a few years after his American sojourn, Flight calls forth the visual properties of church stain glass windows— how the sunlight plays across the glass’ surface, and for a brief, beautiful moment the images appear as if they are alive and in motion.


1 Rodolfo Paras-Perez, Manansala, PLC Publications, Manila, 1980, pg. 13

2 Refer to 1, pg. 18

3 Refer to 1, pg. 158

4 Refer to 1, pg. 24

5 Refer to 1, pg. 19