Birth Anniversary of Napoleon Abueva in the Philippines Date in the current year: January 26, 2024

Birth Anniversary of Napoleon Abueva in the Philippines The birth anniversary of Napoleon Abueva, also known as the birth anniversary of National Artist Napoleon Abueva, is observed in the Philippines on January 26 each year. It honors a renowned sculptor who is regarded as the “father of modern Philippine sculpture”.

Napoleon Veloso Abueva was born Esabelio Veloso Abueva in Duero on January 26, 1930. He was fondly called Billy by his family and assumed the name Napoleon at age six, when one of the nuns at his school called Abueva Napoleon after Bonaparte, and the nickname stuck.

In 1950, Abueva enrolled at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, where he was mentored by Guillermo Tolentino, a prominent sculptor and future National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts – Sculpture. He won his first artistic awards while still at the university; among Abuevo’s first accolades were awards in art competitions held by the Art Association of the Philippines.

Abueva graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1953 and continued his education at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan as a Fulbright/Smith-Mundt scholar. After graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1955, Abueva took a postgraduate course in ceramics at the University of Kansas and spend his summers studying art history at Harvard University.

Abueva’s extensive education made him skilled in both classical and modern techniques. He is credited with helping develop modern Philippine sculpture through his exploration of various media (alabaster, brass, bronze, cement, clay, coral, iron, marble, stainless steel, different kinds of hardwood) and expressive means. In addition to creating art, Abueva was an art teacher and served as Dean of the UP College of Fine Arts from 1978 to 1989.

In 1976, at age 46, Abueva became the youngest person to be proclaimed National Artist of the Philippines. It is the highest honor for contributions to the development of Philippine art. Like his mentor Tolentino three years before him, Abueva was awarded the title of National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts – Sculpture. He had a long and prolific life, and passed away on February 16, 2018 at the age of 88.

Abueva’s works adorn multiple public buildings across the Philippines. They include the altar and hanging crucifix at the Church of the Holy Sacrifice at the University of Philippines Dilman campus (Abueva’s alma mater), façade relief at the Insular Life Building Makati, and mural at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong, among others. His iconic sculptures can be seen in many parks and public spaces; seven Abueva sculptures are part of the National Fine Arts Collection maintained by the National Museum of the Philippines.

Napoleon Abueva’s birth anniversary is not an official holiday, but it is recognized and promoted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Various cultural institutions across the country, such as the National Museum of the Philippines, celebrate it with events highlighting Abueva’s contribution to Philippine arts and his legacy.

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