Federico Aguilar y Alcuaz
National Artist for Visual Arts (2009)
Federico Aguilar y Alcuaz, who signed his works as Aguilar Alcuaz was an artist of voluminous output. He is known mainly for his gestural paintings in acrylic and oil, as well as sketches in ink, watercolor and pencil. He was also a sculptor of note and has rendered abstract and figurative works in ceramics, tapestries and even in relief sculptures made of paper and mixed media, which he simply calls “Alcuazaics.” The preference to use his maternal name was more for practical reasons; Alcuaz was rarer than the name Aguilar, and thus ensured better recall; it was also simpler to drop the customary y between the two names.
Alcuaz belongs to the second generation of Filipino modernists after the fabled Thirteen Moderns, credited along with Jose Joya, Constancio Bernardo, Fernando Zobel and Arturo Luz, for building a significant body of abstract art from the arguably more tentative efforts of their predecessors. Alcuaz went to the UP College of Fine Arts in Diliman while also taking up his pre-law course at San Beda College. Napoleon Abueva, Jose Joya and Juvenal Sanso were also in school with him at that time, studying under Fernando Amorsolo, Guillermo Tolentino, Irineo Miranda, Constancio Bernardo and Toribio Herrera. He would go on to win prizes at UP and at the national Shell Art competition, and embarked on several solo exhibits after graduating from San Beda
Alcuaz would go on in 1955 to obtain a law degree at the Ateneo de Manila in Padre Faura, Manila in deference to his father’s wishes, but after mounting an exhibit at the legendary Philippine Art Gallery, he received a fellowship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Spain and proceeded to study at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, where other Filipino expatriates like Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, Fabian dela Rosa and Jose Ma. Asuncion received a similar classical training.
After his studies, he stayed on to live and familiarize himself with the art and culture of Europe. He had exhibits in Madrid and then in Barcelona, where he met his future wife Ute Schmidt who he married in 1959. They have three children. In 1964, the family moved to Manila, but after 4 years his wife returned to Germany with their three sons, whereupon, Alcuaz embarked once more on shuttling between Europe to see his family and mount exhibits, and then to Manila, where he preferred to do his studio at the Manila Hilton (now the Manila Pavilion).
His works are highly favored, not only for its studied refinement and European flair, but also for the ease and pleasure conveyed by his choice of light, color and composition; all of which add up to scenes which are always quite playful but never cluttered. His love for classical music is also apparent in this constant fluidity.