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November 29, 2012

Claudio Bravo

Claudio Bravo is a Chilean hyperrealist painter who came to Manila in the 1960′s to do portraits of characters of Philippine high society, and even today, I find his work timelessly inspiring.  I had the honor of experiencing a private viewing at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila through the kindness of my dear friend Rajo Laurel, and viewing these portraits in an empty gallery at night was as close as I could get to having a conversation with the late artist.

Note the fine hair detail in Claudio Bravo’s portrait of Tessie Ojeda Luz.

In addition to the fascinatingly hyperrealistic manner by which he draws hair and makeup and other facial features (the full exquisiteness of this is best seen in person), Bravo had an interesting way of bringing his own touch to the pictures he paints.  Long before these days of everybody being a stylist, Bravo was heavily involved in picking out the outfits, favoring looks in the vein of old Balenciaga and Halston.  If he didn’t like any of the clothing options, he would drape a cloth over his subjects, or sketch them only to their bare shoulders.  Back in the 60′s, a commissioned portrait was said to be the cost of two houses.  If I had lived in that era, I only wish I had many houses to spare to have my picture painted by the legendary portrait artist.

Claudio Bravo paints the young tycoon Inigo Zobel and his mother Rocio Zobel Urquijo.

I fell in love with Inigo’s belt buckle initialed “IZ”, which I thought was vaguely Prada-esque. An Izzy could wear that too.

I could only dream of having my portrait be as handsome as this one of Antonio Roxas in a white turtleneck, accented with a slick-back and a skinny dog.

Even the headpiece on Bravo’s mysterious “Boy in a Turban” drawing is hauntingly current.

Rajo admires this portrait of Regina Dee looking effortlessly glamorous.

The long bob, top-lined eyes, and strapless top would look so fresh on a beautiful young woman today. (portrait of Maria Luisa Prieto Lovina)

The vivaciousness of his portrait of Elvira Manahan has made it one of his most popular pieces.

The most breathtaking of them all was the one of philanthropist and society dowager Imelda Cojuangco looking glorious in this confection of heavy purple silk. Legend has it that to the puzzlement of his subject, Bravo stopped painting the portrait at its current state, and declared with pride and contentment, “It is finished.” Over the years, it has become Mrs. Cojuangco’s most favorite portrait of herself.

Claudio Bravo’s portrait of Imelda Cojuangco, up close, alongside two other iconic portraits of his: Baby Fores, and former first lady Imelda Marcos. (via Mairey)

Special thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Manila for this wonderful experience.


  • Hannah
    November 29th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Wow, this is amazing!

  • David Carney | Oki-ni Store
    November 30th, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I noticed that he really puts emphasize on the subject’s fine line of hair. They seem real here. I bet this looks great up close.

  • Izzy
    November 30th, 2012 at 11:42 am

    It’s amazing in person! It’s as if he drew the hairs with a fine pencil one by one. Wouldn’t be surprised if he actually did.

  • Franc
    November 30th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Welcome back to this side of the Pacific (you’ve been missed). Saw Rajo L’s post of this day you guys spent at the Metropolitan and was totally charmed by Bravo’s work then, too. Great seeing such incredible icons of Filipino fashion. Truly. Long live the divine Imelda Cojuanco (no one could wear a Ramon Valera terno like her) & the immortal Elvira Manahan (one of MY personal icons since childhood — that elegance, that laugh OMG!!!). Thanks for sharing this.

  • Izzy
    November 30th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, Franc!

  • George G
    December 2nd, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Tita Meldy was a favorite client of my mom’s, and they did conspire a lot together whenever she needed new outfits. Mom always made the most outrageous ones for her.

    We had a framed black and white copy/photograph of this painting in my home for as long as I can remember, but I had forgotten about it until I read this! I always loved the huge swathe of fabric in it. It’s amazing how perfectly now this art style is again, especially among fashion illustrators.

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