Even before one enters the UST Museum in the Main Building of the University of Santo Tomas, four large murals by Antonio Garcia Llamas portraying the history of the University decorate the lobby.
Along the sides of the grand staircase and on the landing leading to the Museum’s entrance are the large paintings by Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Galo Ocampo and Dante Fabie. Likewise, in the lobby of the Medicine Building are murals by Vicente Manansala depicting the history of medicine in the Philippines and Saints Cosmas’ and Damian’s healing apostolate. Last January 25, 2010, the University unveiled the 1911 commemorative oil painting entitled "The Foundation of the University of Santo Tomas by Archbishop Benavides," painted by Domigo A. Celis located at the center of the main entrance of the UST Museum.
The UST Museum Gallery of Art, as it was then called, was formally inaugurated on July 25, 1940, through the initiative of then University Rector, Fr. Silvestre Sancho, O.P.. This followed the Museum’s transfer from Intramuros to Sampaloc. Since then, there have been additions to the collection that cover a period ranging roughly from the 17th century to the present.
Such a diverse collection needs a simple and convenient way to classify it without prejudice to the work’s respective style or trend. To this end, the painting collection has been loosely divided into three groups.
The first group is comprised of old paintings with religious subjects done by early Spanish artists and Filipino artisans through the 16th and 17th centuries. There is the Madonna and the Madonna and Child, identified by the traditional titles given them in Spain; patron saints and saints who were objects of popular devotion; and scenes from the Bible. These were presumably brought by the Spanish missionaries to visually complement and reinforce their religious teaching and to foster and enhance worship and devotion.
The second group consists, for the most part, of portraits of early Popes and Bishops, of UST Rectors and other renowned Dominicans, some of them painted before photography became common. Most impressive and inspiring of these works, however, are some 22 old and timeworn paintings of the Dominican missionaries, who were martyred in the Far East from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Painted by anonymous Filipino artists, they are marvelous and moving creations of a vivid imagination and an artistic, if still unrefined, technique.
The third group is composed mostly of representative paintings which, with a great variety of subjects, and except for a number of works by foreign artists, showcase in a modest way the period of Philippine painting from the later years of the 19th century to the 1960s. There are works by Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Manuel Zaragosa, Simeon Flores, Fabian de la Rosa, Fernando Amorsolo and his brother Pablo, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Galo B. Ocampo, Vicente Manansala, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, and many others. Francisco Goya, Cirio Fanigiulio and Romualdo Locatelli lead the foreign artists.
For want of needed space, there is no art gallery, strictly speaking, within the UST Museum. The unusually large pieces and a considerable number of portraits are hung along the walls, while the rest of the collection is stored in cabinets especially constructed for their security and protection. However, the Museum holds regular exhibits throughout the year to make these works available to students and visitors.
Despite existing limitations, the art collection of the UST Museum is a rich cultural legacy and has provided valuable artistic testimony to the development of painting in the Philippines.
Browse Selected Pieces from the Collection: