In this scene of rural life, farmers harvest rice in the background while villagers rest under the shade of a mango tree in the foreground. Pastoral themes such as this one were a favorite of the artist Fernando Amorsolo, the most popular Filipino painter of the twentieth century. Some scholars attribute the great appeal of his works to the nostalgia for simpler times during the period of rapid urbanization and cultural change under the American colonial regime.
Amorsolo attended the art school of the Liceo de Manila and the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts, studying with the Filipino painter Fabian de la Rosa. As a young man, he loved spending time in the countryside outside Manila sketching and painting in the open air. His depictions of villagers and genre scenes became extremely popular and were reproduced in books, magazines, and advertisements. By the late 1920s he had attained a level of fame still unmatched by any other Filipino artist.
During the 1950s (the period when he completed this painting), Amorsolo was incredibly prolific. In 1958 he complained of having more than eighty orders to fill, and he often made multiple copies of the same painting (several other versions of this painting exist). By this point in his life, he was largely confined to his studio, where he and his assistants worked diligently every day.
“When I think of Filipino art, I first think of paintings, oil paintings. I think of the nineteenth-century masters, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and Juan Luna. And then I think of the luminous paintings of Fernando Amorsolo, who was actually influenced, from what I’ve read, by the great master painter Joaquín Sorolla, who was also a master of light. You can see that in his work.”
– Edwin Lozada (President, Philippine American Writers and Artists)