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Ang Kiukok, the fur parent

The National Artist's 'Man and Dog' evokes charm—so different from his trademark imagery—as 'Finer Pursuits' auction will show

Ang Kiukok had always been fascinated with dogs, having cared for at least three dogs in his lifetime (‘Man and Dog,’ 1975, oil on canvas, 56” x 35”. Estimate: P20-24 million)

National Artist Ang Kiukok made a dent in our collective visual memory for his striking imagery portraying raw visceral emotions. His subjects hold the collective imagination captive–snarling dogs, hissing cats, contorted human figures. They concretize Kiukok’s introspection on the human condition.

In a rare confluence, these subjects and images reemerge at the forthcoming Finer Pursuits: Important Philippine Art & Rare Collectibles auction, and come across in a different light somehow. Ang Kiukok’s Man and Dog headlines the Finer Pursuits: Important Philippine Art & Rare Collectibles live and online auction on Saturday, 3 June 2023. To participate in the auction, visit Salcedo Auctions at

Ang Kiukok’s Man and Dog is an imposing oil on canvas that presents a powerful image of a man and his dog. The standing man has one hand shading his eyes, helping him focus as he stares at a distance. His other hand rests upon and appears to pat the head of the dog standing next to him. Man and Dog is a brilliant combination of two of Kiukok’s most recurrent subjects.

Quintessentially, Kiukok’s man is often depicted in a state of distress. Man suffers from a hostile environment or from other human predators. His man, in flesh and bone, is raw, exposed, and subject to suffering.  Kiukok’s dogs are his “perfect metaphors for humankind’s aggressive temperament and selfish nature.” They snarl, fight each other, and commit violence. In Man and Dog, however, Kiukok’s man and dog are the antithesis of these.

This particular piece is a remarkable departure. While he retains his cubist style, his imagery defies the angst-ridden composition typically associated with his works. The man stands confidently and comfortably as he scratches the dog’s head—a gesture that the canine appears to relish. The dog looks quite content, even takes delight in the attention. It stands faithfully beside its master with widened eyes betraying happiness and submission. “Charming” is not a word often used to describe Ang Kiukok’s works, but here we are.

Perhaps, the tenderness stems from the fact that at least three dogs were part of Kiukok’s family, along with several cats.

Kiukok was also a fur parent to several cats. This masterpiece is a rare portrayal of his feline subjects, with a female (mother) cat gazing up contentedly, as expressed by its tail high up in the air. (‘Cat,’ 1981, oil on canvas, 24” x 24,” estimated at P3.8-4 million)

As with all the works of the National Artist, Man and Dog continues to illuminate the intricacies of the human condition. The true strength of this work lies not only in its striking composition, but also in the profound philosophical perspective through which Kiukok contemplates humanity. This painting is not only about the relationship between man and his best friend; it also embodies the inherent duality of the human being—man as rational and man as instinctive.

Esperanza Gatbonton, in her book about the National Artist, observes that Kiukok’s humans, while oftentimes forlorn and distressed, are never alone. They are either locked in a fierce embrace or engaged with something outside of the canvas. In this piece, man is with his dog—his loyal companion, his best friend—and their companionship is rendered in a rare show of vulnerability and love that might have been a little too revealing for the artist. After all, he was a fur parent himself.

This painting has a sterling publication and exhibition history. It was centerstage at the ‘Images of Nation’ exhibition by the Ayala Museum titled ‘Golden Years: The Golden Years (1954-2004)” in 2016. (image source:

Ang Kiukok’s Man and Dog headlines the forthcoming Finer Pursuits: Important Philippine Art & Rare Collectibles live and online auction on Saturday, 3 June 2023. To participate in the auction, visit Salcedo Auctions at

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