Manila’s Elite in the Eyes of Claudio Bravo

claudio bravo in manila

In the 1960s, then up and coming Chilean artist Claudio Bravo was invited to visit the Philippines by no less than President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos. Bravo stayed for around six months in 1968 and did commissioned portraits of some of Manila’s rich and famous. These portraits are the focus of an ongoing exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

The Embassy of Chile and geothermal energy producer Energy Development Corporation presents Claudio Bravo: Sojourn in Manila at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila as a tribute to the world-renowned hyperrealist artist who died last year. It is also a celebration of the ties between the Philippines and Chile. The inauguration of the exhibit on September 18 coincided with the 202nd anniversary of Chile’s independence.

claudio bravo manila portraits

Portraits done by Claudio Bravo during his 1968 stay in Manila. Clockwise, from top left: Dr. Constantino Manahan, Conchita Lopez Taylor, Imelda Marcos, Pacita Moreno Lopez, Ma. Lourdes Araneta Fores, Elvira Manahan, Surrealistic Nude on the Beach with Seashell, Regina Dee, Chona Recto Kasten, Margarita Cojuangco, Evelyn Lim Forbes, and Luis Araneta.

Claudio Bravo’s striking portraits of Manila’s high society evoke an air of formality that recalls the timeless classical paintings of the Renaissance era. Done mostly using graphite, charcoal, conte crayon and pastel on paper, the works  show the artist’s attention to details, as seen in his subjects’ hair strands and the draping of the clothes.  The various objects used as props in some of the portraits highlight the interest of the subjects. I was particularly impressed with the portraits of the regal-looking Imelda Cojuangco in a purple dress, the simply beautiful Tingting Cojuangco and Baby Fores, and the iconic Imelda Marcos holding a parasol.

claudio bravo in manila

Claudio Bravo working on the portrait of Conchita Taylor

After finishing this series of portraits in the Philippines, Claudio Bravo soon became well-known for his still life works that look like they were photographed and not painted. Common objects became the subject of his works, including paper, packaging and fabric. Claudio Bravo is described as a hyperrealist. The details in the paintings are remarkable. A few of these are also shown in the exhibit.

Claudio Bravo’s dedication to his craft is admirable. I am awed by his focus and love for art. He used to paint from 8 to 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. He advised young painters thus:

“…take painting seriously because it’s very difficult. A painting isn’t done in 24 hours. If you have enough courage, devote yourself to it.” *


Ambassador Roberto Mayorga

Chile’s Ambassador to the Philippines Roberto Mayorga (second from right) talks to bloggers during the Blog at the Met event on September 22. Photo shows him with a guest, the ambassador’s wife Paulina and exhibit curator Tats Manahan.

The Claudio Bravo exhibit at the Met is worth a visit. Get a glimpse of Manila’s high society in their youth. See how the artist’s work evolved from his Manila portraits to the famous hyperrealist images that he is known for.

Claudio Bravo: Sojourn in Manila runs until October 20, 2012. The exhibit is accompanied by weekly activities on Saturdays, including a curator’s talk by Tats Manahan, a lecture on still life painting by Cid Reyes, and drawing sessions.

Met sketching session

A portrait sketching session at the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila is located at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila. Museum hours are from 9am – 6pm, Monday to Saturday; closed on Sundays and first Mondays of the month and on holidays.  For details on the exhibit, please call 708-7829. Visit

*Interview by Hugo Arevalo for Chilean TV in 1995; transcript provided by 
Metropolitan Museum of Manila.