November 14, 2006

A major artist comes up with a major retrospective of his print works
Sansó's Imprint on Philippine Art

By Lito B. Zulueta

Like Rembrandt, Juvenal Sansó is as distinguished in print as he is in painting, notwithstanding print playing second fiddle to painting, at least in the Philippines.

Printmaking, of course, has seen better days; its relative decline is due to the bad press caused by unscrupulous artist and merchants passing off reproductions as prints.

But considering the sheer variety and the unique achievements of our artists – Manuel Rodriguez Sr., Rod, Paras-Perez, J. Elizalde Navarro, Fil Dela Cruz, Bencab and Raul Isidro easily come to mind (arguably their achievements may be far more original and solid than those of our painters) – it appears that the print world is the true demesne of Filipino artistry.

Oh, but Sansó is not a Filipino, you say? Sansó, whose parents were Catalonian, who was born in Barcelona but grew up in the Philippines, and who has been mainly based in Paris as an artist, had long ago sought naturalization but was foiled from doing so by politics. His beloved sister, who runs the family business Arte Español, has been more fortunate than he on the matter.

Anyway, at least three generations of Filipinos have always known Sansó to be Filipino or the artistic variant of what the Pinoy calls “A foreigner who’s more Filipino than Filipinos.” President Macapagal-Arroyo seems to agree, so she gave him the Presidential Medal of Merit early this year. His acceptance speech-effusively Iberian and bombastically Pinoy - his a sidebar to this article.

Whether or not he‘s Filipino, we must remember that something of a national rejoicing like that generated when Luna and Hidalgo had won in Europe in the 19th century met the news in 1963 that a work of Sansó had been named Print of the year  by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Shortly afterward, his works were exhibited to acclaim by the Philadelphia Print Club. The fact that previous winners of the Cleveland price were Dali and Matesse should have signaled not only that Sansó had arrive but also that he had joined the pantheon of immortals. Cleveland, after all is a leading collector of fine prints and its collection of at least 1,200 prints is highly select and August.