Juan Luna (1857-1899), Filipino painter, spent the 1880s and 90s in Europe, exhibiting in several major European salon exhibitions. Together with José Rizal – doctor, intellectual, patriot – they formed a group known as the “ilustrados” or enlightened ones, who were exposed to European enlightenment ideas, and were committed to working towards the reform and independence of the Philippine colony from Spain. If previous attempts have too quickly read Luna's painting in a nationalist and post-colonial light, this 30-minute talk considers the strategic positioning of his painting with regard to European exhibitional politics, and the anachronic dimension of his painting with regard to European and Filipino history. By close readings of three canvases – Spoliarium (1884), Battle of Lepanto (1887), and The Blood Compact (1886) – this talk seeks to provide a more critical assessment of Luna’s politics, several years before the Philippine Revolution of 1896.
Dr Kevin Chua is Associate Professor of 18th- and 19th-century European and Southeast Asian art at Texas Tech University. He obtained his PhD in the History of Art from the University of California at Berkeley, and has published in a wide range of academic journals, including Representations, Artforum, Art Journal, Third Text, Yishu, and FOCAS. His essay “Courbet after Sudjojono” will appear in a forthcoming issue of Art History