Romeo Villalva Tabuena (August 22, 1921-October 15, 2015)
Tabuena was a Philippine painter and engraver born in the city of Iloilo. He studied architecture at the Mapúa Institute of Technology in Manila and painting at the University of the Philippines. He also studied at the Art Students League of New York and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris.
He was a many-sided artist: he began his career emphasising the influence of Chinese painting by enhancing his renowned work in watercolour of the Philippine landscape, of the nipa huts and water buffalo and he was part of the Philippine neo realist movement along with artists such as Vicente Manasala, HR Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, Victor Oteyza, Anita Magsaysay-Ho and Nena Saguil. But also—given his studies in New York and France and artistic currents in the Philippines—Tabuena also got deeply into cubism and later was deeply influenced by the Mexican School of Painting with David Alfaro Siqueiros and particularly by Rufino Tamayo.
"Juguetes Mexicanos" 1959
In 1955, Tabuena decided to return to his country; however in his studies abroad he had heard a lot about Mexican muralism and, eager to know the work of Tamayo, he decided to spend a few days in Mexico City and to later arrive at the city of San Miguel de Allende where he indeed got to know the muralist movement and developed a friendship with Rufino Tamayo. In San Miguel, he found out about the Instituto Allende art school, where he won a grant. This was how Tabuena struck up his relationship with Mexico and decided to live in that country for sixty years. San Miguel became the ideal place for him to create many paintings and to experiment.
"Mujer en Rojos" 1959
Nevertheless, he always maintained active links with his native country through his main art projects and—in spite of his long residence in Mexico—he kept his Philippine nationality. One of his main works from 1957 is a mural commissioned by the Philippine government in the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC.
His other expositions include a ten-year retrospective in 1959 in the Gallery of Philippine Art in Manila. In 1962, as a successful artist, he was sponsored by the government of the Philippines in the International Salon of the Fine Arts Palace in Mexico City, which stated, “the highest state of Philippine painting in the contemporary art world.” In 1965, he took part in the Ocava Bienal of Sao Paulo, Brazil as the official curator and as a Philippine artist.
Bienal Sao Paulo, Brasil 1965
Tabuena had his second great individual exposition in Manila in 1973, followed by another in 1975 in Mexico City and still another in the Galerie Bleue in Manila in 1981. Thanks to a cultural accord between Mexico and the Philippines, the Philippine Embassy—in a joint effort with the National Institute of Fine Arts—honored Tabuena with the Millennium Show in 2000 and he showed his work countless times at the Ignacio Ramírez, El Nigromante, Cultural Centre, of the National Fine Arts Institute in San Miguel de Allende.
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