Art/Style/Travel Diaries

HR Ocampo masterpiece from the Tito and Elvira Manahan collection at Leon Gallery auction

The work, a highlight of 'The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2024' on June 8, shows the artist at his peak

Property formerly in the Tito and Elvira Manahan collection, Hernando R. Ocampo (1911-1978), 'Sonata in Green,' signed and dated 1969 (lower right), oil on canvas, 30" x 40" (76 cm x 102 cm)

Claudio Bravo’s 1968 portrait of Dr. Constantino Manahan

Claudio Bravo’s 1968 portrait of Elvira Manahan

A 1969 H.R. Ocampo masterwork from the collection of society A-listers and art patrons Dr. Constantino “Tito” and Elvira Manahan goes on the block at Leon Gallery’s highly anticipated The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2024 this June 8.

Titled Sonata in Green, the painting comes from the artist’s Visual Melody Period, arguably Ocampo’s peak—this was Ocampo at his most romantic and visually poetic, and therefore, his most revered period by art collectors.

When Ocampo painted Sonata in Green, he was at the height of his Visual Melody Period. In a May 1972 interview with Cid Reyes, Ocampo described this period as “approximating the properties of music…I approach my paintings now as if they were chamber music, which, I suppose, one can consider pure music.”

In Sonata in Green, Ocampo captures various shades of green—from deep, dark tones to airy and more delicate hues. Since a sonata means “a piece played,” one can even imagine through the diverging shades of greens Ocampo going from the largos and adagios to the restrained andantinos and moderatos, before progressing towards the allegros and a coloratura passage.

Through Ocampo’s rendering of organic forms, music and painting come alive. Music is woven into painting. Perhaps it was Ocampo’s visual articulation of a concerto that drew Elvira Manahan, herself a force in Philippine show business and society, and the aficionado and patron of the arts that was Dr. Tito Manahan.

Sonata in Green would find its home in Tito’s clinic at Makati Medical Center. Restoration specialist and heritage conservation expert Tats Manahan writes in the Leon catalog that the fine art piece was hung alongside a portrait of Elvira by Tomas Concepcion.

Dr. Constantino Manahan and Elvira Ledesma Manahan in Rome © Tatler Asia

The Manahan couple’s love for the arts was not limited to art collecting; they even invited artists to their home, where they bonded over meals. “The couple would unhesitatingly host dinners for artists they considered noteworthy, promising, or established,” says Manahan.

“Whether he or she was a visual or performing artist, the couple was always appreciative of artistic output and open to giving support…The couple’s appreciation for art filtered down not just to their children, but also their grandchildren who are likewise collectors or themselves, artists.”

Sonata in Green immortalizes the artist-collector relationship between the Manahan couple and H.R. Ocampo. The work’s arrival at the Leon auction is in line with what Leon Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon calls the celebration of bonds “made stronger by the powerful conviction of the arts.”

Ponce de Leon says, “This Independence Day, it is essential for us to revel in the fact that shared affinities and intimate companionships are what ultimately led us to our emancipation as a nation, the liberty that we had long yearned for. And to celebrate this watershed episode in our story as a nation, we offer you fine works of art that reflect profound friendships.”

Sonata in Green is one of Ocampo’s most documented works. It is a gem of a book piece, appearing in numerous publications, including Manuel Duldulao’s landmark 1972 monograph Contemporary Philippine Art, the June 1974 issue of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) quarterly Pamana, and Nicanor Tiongson’s Artista ng Bayan.

A year before the creation of Sonata in Green, Ocampo had painted the iconic Genesis, which he dubbed “the full-flowering of his Visual Melody Period.” Genesis would be transformed into the monumental tapestry serving as the main stage curtain of the CCP’s Main Theater (Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo). The Genesis tapestry and the CCP edifice were inaugurated in September 1969.

There is an interesting backstory behind Ocampo’s high-powered use of a green palette in 1969, particularly with this work at hand. In his 9 October 1969 column in Manila Times, critic Alfredo Roces wrote that Ocampo worked on a series of red and orange paintings “some months ago” because he could not find any supply of green oil paints, due to what Roces said was an effect of tightened dollar restrictions, thus producing a shortage of art supplies not produced locally.

Sonata in Green is part music appropriation and part reminder of Ocampo’s adaptability and versatility in both medium and palette. Thus, the work would be part of yet another transition period for Ocampo—as an exceptional colorist,  which critics and collectors alike had always praised.

‘Sonata in Green’ is one of H.R. Ocampo’s most documented works, included in Manuel Duldulao’s landmark 1972 monograph on Philippine art (above), Nicanor Tinongson’s ‘Artista ng Bayan’ (bottom left), and the CCP quarterly ‘Pamana’ (bottom right).

“The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction” is happening this June 8, 2024, 2  p.m, at Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati City. Preview week is from June 1 to 7, 2024, from 9 am to 7 pm. For further inquiries, email [email protected] or contact +632 8856-27-81. To browse the catalog, visit www.leon-gallery.com.

Follow León Gallery on their social media pages for timely updates: Facebook – www.facebook.com/leongallerymakati and Instagram @leongallerymakati.


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