fanstastic painter of modern art
Antonio Garcia Llamas was one of the best-known portrait artists of postwar Philippine high society. Born in the Philippines to Spanish parents, he studied in Spain and Italy, returning to the Philippines in the peacetime years before WWII.
The Garcias were one of the leading families in the islands at the time -- the family residence on the beach in Paranaque was said to be second only to Malacanang Palace in opulence. Extant pictures show a large, European-inspired residence, the back of which had expansive space for large receptions, and a swimming pool. Afraid that their home might be appropriated by the Japanese military forces, patriarch Adolfo Garcia sold the property towards the end of WWII for the princely sum of P300,000 paid for in the soon worthless "Mickey Mouse" money. Nevertheless, the family retained enough assets, including real estate, in the postwar years.
He taught painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Santo Tomas, receiving commissions for portraits, as well as ecclesiastical murals. Some of his best works are the murals on the ground floor of the Main Building of UST depicting the history of the Dominican Order in the Philippines, the images of the four evangelists atop the four columns of the altar of the Santo Domingo Church, and the image of San Antonio behind the choir loft on the left side of the main altar of the Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park. (Traditionally, the image of San Antonio shows him carrying the infant Jesus on his left arm -- the face of the infant Jesus was that of Antonio's baby daughter Tani, whose baptismal name is Antonia). Viviano Meer was one of Garcia Llamas' most enthusiastic collectors, together with other members of the elite.
One of Garcia Llamas' students was Juvenal Sanso, who attended evening classes at UST after graduating from the University of the Philippines. He recalls how Garcia Llamas was "courtesy personified," a true gentleman of the old school. Ramon Locsin accompanied his mother, Toto, for her portrait sessions some time later, and remembers the "old-world elegance" in his manner and demeanor. The artist lived on Escolastica, along Roxas Boulevard, not far from where the Department of Foreign Affairs building stands today, in an old house with wide capiz windows opening to a view of palm trees and Manila Bay. Ramon also remembers the endless banter, the cigarette smoke, and the friendly atmosphere of the painting sessions. A natural joker, Garcia Llamas was ever popular and the constant life of every party.
(From Portrait of the artist as bon vivant, Rene Guatlo, Metrozines: Metro Society)