spaceNapoleon Isabelo V. Abueva was born on January 26, 1930 in Tagbilaran, Bohol. He graduated from the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts in 1953 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture. He received much recognition as early as his college years, during which he was mentored by Guillermo E. Tolentino, the first National Artist for Sculpture and creator of the UP Oblation.

spaceFor three years in a row (1951-1953), he won first prize and best entry awards in sculpture in the Art Association of the Philippines annual competition. One of his works during this period is the “Kaganapan” (1953), considered also as the most representative of his works. Along the various awards he has reaped, he also received recognition from the Institute of Contemporary Arts’ International Sculpture Competition in London, England for his work known as “The Unknown Political Prisoner.”

spaceIn 1955, he finished his Master of Fine Arts at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan as a Fulbright/Smith-Mundt Scholar. He later took graduate units in Ceramics at the University of Kansas and Art History at Harvard University.

spaceIn 1976, Napoleon V. Abueva, then 46 years of age, became the youngest Filipino to be named a National Artist. Not only is he known as the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture—he is a master in both academic representational style and modern abstract.

spaceIn 1978, he was appointed Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, a position he held until 1989.

spaceIn 1993, he was given an honorary doctorate in humanities and was promoted to University Professor. He retired from the University in June 1995, and was given the status of Professor Emeritus in April 2003.

spaceHis works have been executed using a wide range of materials, including hard wood like molave, acacia, langka wood, ipil, kamagong, palm wood and bamboo, adobe, metal, stainless steel, cement, marble, bronze, iron, alabaster, coral, and brass. He even combines different materials, like wood with metal and stone.

spaceAmong the major works of Abueva are as follows: Kiss of Judas (1955); The Transfiguration at the Eternal Garden Memorial Park (1979); Fredesvinda in Fort Canning, Singapore (1981); Nine Muses at the UP Faculty Center (1994); Sunburst at the Peninsula Manila Hotel (1994); the bronze figure of Teodoro M. Kalaw in front of National Library; Murals in Marble at the National Heroes Shrine, Mt. Samat, Bataan; 14 Stations of the Cross at the EDSA Shrine. He also performed the death mask procedures to the late Cardinal Sin and Fernando Poe Jr.

 

spaceSeveral public art of Abueva can also be found at UP Diliman campus. Among these are: The Crucifix with Two Corpora, including the altar base (1957) and subsequently, the bust of Fr. Delaney at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice; The University Gateway (also UP Gates); Tribute to Higher Education, at the entrance of University Avenue (1967); The Spirit of Business, in front of the College of Business Administration (1979); Diwata, at the Faculty Center (1992); Alma Mater, at the lobby of Ang Bahay ng Alumni (1996); Three Women Sewing the First Philippine Flag, also known as Tres Marias Plaza, at the UP Donors’ Garden, as part of the centennial celebration of the 1896 Philippine Revolution (1996).

spaceThe honors and awards accorded to Abueva are tremendous. A few are: First Prize, Sculptural Exhibition by the Art Association of the Philippines (1951); First Prize in the Fifth Annual Art Exhibition (1952); First Prize and Special Award on the Fourth Sculptural Exhibition (1952); Awardee, The Unknown Political Prisoner, in the International Sculpture Competition by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1953); First Prize and Special Award, Kaganapan (Marble), in the Semi-Annual Art Exhibition by the Art Association of the Philippines (1953); First Prize, Kiss of Judas (Wood), in the Religious Art Exhibition in Detroit, Michigan, USA (1955); First Prize, Water Buffalo (Marble), in the Annual Show, at St. Louis , Missouri, USA (1956); First Prize, Figure (Wood), in the Annual Show of the Art Association of the Philippines (1957); Most Outstanding Alumnus of the School of Fine Arts, U.P. Golden Jubilee (1958); Republic Award for Sculpture (1959); Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) Awardee in Sculpture (1959); Winner, U.P. Gateway Design Competition (1962); Winner, Cultural Heritage Award (1966); ASEAN Awards for Visual Arts in Bangkok (1987); Fourth ASEAN Achievement Award for Visual Arts in Singapore (July 1995).

spaceIn an interview, Abueva was asked: “Why do some individuals become great artists, while others, unfortunately, do not?”

spaceAbueva answered: “The inner drive…A more accomplished artist has inner drive and stamina. Now this is very important. The plight of the artist is somewhat similar to that of the long distance runner. You have to cross the finish line. What counts more in life is the end result. Leonardo da Vinci once said that the greatest tragedy of artists is when theory outstrips performance (laughs). Artists are judged by the end result. Theory is important but concepts must be executed very well for any theory to be realized. The artist must possess the inner drive, passion, and “loneliness” of a long distance runner to go very far…”

spaceAfter his mentor’s (Tolentino) demise, Napoleon V. Abueva did the replica of The Oblation at the following campuses—UP Baguio, UP Tacloban, UP Miag-ao, UP Mindanao and UP Los Banos. Now 76 years old, Napoleon V. Abueva continues to lead a busy life as a sculptor and still do projects in the same humongous proportions as The Transfiguration. His passion for his work remains at a high-pitch.

1*From Bulawan 1, a publication of The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (2001).