I wrote this article in my journal dated 20 March 1999, with the intention of submittion to the Philippine Daily Inquirer for possible publication. But apparently, again, it didn’t got off the writing table. And so, I’m writing it here in my blog. As always, better late than never.
As I was going over the March 15 issue of your paper. An article caught my eye. The article is concerning the book of a certain Dr. Eleuterio ’Teyet’ Pascual. In which he wrote about the recent discovery of Juan Luna’s lost drawings. In his book, Dr. Pascual declared the discovery of at least one thousand of Juan Luna’s drawings and sketches. I’m not a Juan Luna fan but I continued reading the article until something else caught my attention. The so called loud allegations of outspoken ‘Artists’’, especially a certain Mauro Malang Santos, caught my attentive eye.
Mr. Santos says to prove that the Luna drawings are authentic because presumably, he believes the drawings are fake. And was drawn by a forger. And then he commented, “it’s impossible for an artist to produce 1,000 drawings.” Such a brave statement coming from someone who has a somewhat shallow perspective of Art. Let’s assume without a reason of a doubt that the Luna drawings are truly fake. But such a statement is ludicrous.
Let me explain. It was customary in the time of Juan Luna, which was I presume, in the late nineteenth century, to make preparatory drawings for a painting (before the advent of modernism in Art, painters ever since followed the old time tested tradition of painting a picture, by making preparatory drawings for a painting, especially in Oil Painting).These drawings are used as a way to prepare the final painting before executing it. To find the right composition, for anatomical corrections, for the final layout and for minute details.
Supposing Juan Luna produced just 50 finished paintings (which is doubtful) in his lifetime. And supposing he made a minimum of 20 preparatory drawings for each painting. What would be the total? Twenty times fifty would amount to 1,000 drawings! And that is just twenty drawings per painting, and I doubt if Juan Luna made only 20 drawings per painting. With his stature as a painter and the customary painting process that every painter in his time uses.
The great Expressionist artist Vincent van Gogh once said, “Drawing sketches is like planting seeds in order to get pictures later.”
And the great Neoclassical Painter J.A.D. Ingres said, “Drawing is the true test of Art.”
Going back to Mr. Santos’ comment of the impossibility for an artist to produce 1,000 drawings. Would had it been better for Mr. Santos to say, “it’s impossible for Juan Luna to produce 1,000 drawings.”
Wouldn’t that be more closer to reality?
And the resounding reality is this, the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), one of the most productive and innovative artists in Art history, in one of the most recent inventories of his oeuvre, has produced around 15,000 paintings, more than 660 sculptures, countless drawings and graphic work.
Go back and read again, it says ‘countless drawings’. Can you imagine the word countless? It means that it’s so numerous, no one can possibly catalogue and list them all. Now, isn’t Pablo Picasso an Artist? Of course he is, a resounding yes. Look in any reference to Modern Art and you will surely find his name. Not to mention in any Art History book in general. Did Picasso produced 1,000 drawings? The word to describe it was ’countless’.
Is it impossible then for an artist, any artist, to produce 1,000 drawings? As Mr. Santos ignorantly asked.
In fact, Picasso is not the only Great Artist in the history of Art to produce over 1,000 drawings in their lifetime. A perfect example would be the Great Renaissance Artist, the Uomo Universale himself, Leonardo da Vinci. His famous notebooks comprises nearly 6,000 pages containing countless drawings and sketches.
Now, going back again to the impossibility for an artist to produce 1,000 drawings quote. Does Mr. Santos have a clue of what he was saying? Does he have a minuscule of an idea what he had commented? What was he thinking? Or was he really thinking? In his own little fantasy world, he literally rewrote Art history with his comment. He practically called all the Art historians who ever lived, stupid.
Does this indicate without a reason of a doubt that, based on Mr. Santos’ comment on the Luna drawings, he has, at 70, not produced at least a thousand drawings? Does this also indicate, that Mr. Santos doesn’t make preparatory drawings for his so called ‘works of Art’?
In another statement coming again from him, wherein he was most bothered by the Luna drawings being allegedly signed. He asked in confidence, “Who signs drawings?” and “nobody really buys drawings, not even today.” Who signs drawings, Mr. Santos asks in awe? I have Art books that contain reproductions of drawings by the Old and Modern Masters that are signed by those artists? Who signs drawings then? The Old and Modern Masters, that’s who. The greatest artists who ever lived.
And nobody buys drawings, not even today? Is he honestly sure?
Now how come in my same Art books again, I find the drawings with captions at the bottom of the page, indicating the locations wherein one can find those famous drawings. An example of a caption reads - In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Who buys drawings then? Only the most famous and greatest Museums and Galleries in the world.
Now, how did these famous and greatest Museums and Galleries in the world acquire those drawings for their Art collection? Is it possible they were bought? Either from another museum or gallery or from a former owner of those drawings. Well, without a doubt, they surely did.
I will ask Mr. Santos, does anybody buy drawings, even today? The answer is another resounding yes.
Can I ask Mr. Santos, how do Art historians know a drawing was created by let’s say, Leonardo da Vinci? How can they attribute any drawing to any artist? The most acceptable way would be the artist’s signature on the drawing or painting.
Wouldn’t it be better again if Mr. Santos said, “Juan Luna rarely signs his drawings” or “Juan Luna’s drawings are seldom bought.” Wouldn’t that be closer to reality again.
Now, going back to the nobody buys drawings quote. Mr. Santos again in his little fantasy world, literally rewrote Art history with his comment. And practically called the most famous and greatest Museums and Galleries in the world who bought and now own those drawings, stupid.
But we don’t need to worry. Mr. Santos said it in his little own private fantasy dream world. Where everything that goes inside his puny brain, can become reality. For we are living in reality here.
My concern right now has nothing anymore to do with Juan Luna’s drawings being allegedly fake. But my concern at the moment is that certain individuals with shallow perceptions on Art and Art history are saying remarks that undermine the very essence of what it is to a true artist. Of what it is to create paintings and drawings, not for the fame and stature, not for the money and prestige. But for the sheer conviction that that is what a true artist is called upon this earth to do. Because he is a true artist.