Elmer Borlongan’s Extraordinary Eye for the Ordinary

Elmer Borlongan’s mid-career retrospective held on his 50th birthday at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila establishes him as the essential post-EDSA artist: an artist painting in the veristic sociocritical vein of the 90s, but who, with the downfall of the Marcoses, finds himself with no one to rebel against so he turns to a kind of mellow social realism. The works, which span the years 1994 to 2018, indicate that his oeuvre  has indeed become worthy of the term, “Borlonganesque,” a critical shorthand for a form of social realism that has become formulaic. At the same time, the term concedes that his work has become something of a benchmark in the art scene, which begs the question: is his social realism driven less by social issues than by the art market?

Borlongan has evolved a reputation as a proletarian artist who paints in the Expressionist style. His brand of social realism has a subtle activism, but what political statements he is making in his paintings have largely remained opaque. However, the post-EDSA era has come to celebrate the eclectic mutability of the artist. He is lionized as something of a historical epigone, and it is in this development that Borlongan is celebrated: not as an adept master of styles but as a narrow conformist to the cliches of social realism.

Does it mean, then, that we need to retouch the prosaic image of  Borlongan – perhaps to darken his aura, in order to make the closet activist shine all the more? Did the erstwhile radical activist who once confessed to being clueless on what to do as an artist turn to painting the ugly and the deformed to produce poverty porn? Or are his works a chief example of the memento pauper tradition in Philippine art? Is it protest art?

The curators at the Met Museum retrospective seem bent on canonizing Borlongan as a progeny of figurative masters but not necessarily as a Social Realist. The works are presented in such a way that there is only a token mention on the political messaging of the paintings, such as an entire wall given to “Kapit-bisig”, but and there is nothing radical about the presentation or the painting itself. Social Realists would balk at the idea that the subject is ordinary but the artistic rendition is extraordinary. The reverse holds true: the reality in Social Realism is rarely ordinary.

Apparently, this regression became the norm in light of a national art historical perspective allergic with politics that emerged after EDSA 1986.  

The highlight of any good retrospective of a Social Realist would be the radical younger years. Elmer Borlongan’s early career indeed affords glimpses of a nascent radicalism.

He joined Artista ng Bayan (ABAY), an activist art collective, with Mark Justiniani, and served as a graphic artist for various leftist organizations of the National Democratic Front. He eventually decided to drop out of art school after his involvement with these organizations became more intense. Academic training offered no guarantee for anyone going into a career in art, and Borlongan’s decision to drop out was abetted by a quivering appreciation for social-realism against the background of a euphoric uprising. The increasingly reactionary climate of the 1990s saw culture and the arts suffering from serious institutional failure. The stigma of “deodorant of the Marcos regime” apparently stuck, and artists like Borlongan were driven to a corner. They had to reinvent themselves, and many, like Borlongan turned to urban and folk and quasi-religious allegories.

The retrospective should have served to remind us that during and after the period of the EDSA revolution, Borlongan worked on several posters, pamphlets and efffigies; one with a gruesome picture of Ferdinand Marcos as a vile yellow gnome, the personification of corruption. This last piece of ephemera could very well have been the marker for Elmer Borlongan’s entry into the art scene. Some of these works are now in the collection of the Ateneo Art Gallery, but unfortunately, the Met Manila exhibition did not show a single graphic from his early career as a leftist-activist graphic designer.

The modern city is the usual Borlonganesque subject; so much so that even in its treatment of provincial scenes, you sense a deep “city mouse” perspective. In his large-format paintings and his sketches on paper, the artist invites you on a ramble through the nocturnal metropolis. In the selection for the retrospective, he leads us past bunker-shaped concrete blocks in threatening black against a night blue sky, under bridges and train stations through the ecstatic world of nightclubs with their flashes of light, filled with rhythmic and swirling human bodies.

Almost always it is night in the Borlonganesque painting, and even when they are lit up by the light of day, they are bathed in a dirty, pale mist, the same shade of a polluted estero. Like lemurs, the human figures move in this cosmos, anonymously, without any physiognomic distinctness except their baldness and big eyes. The eyes bear within them the narcissistic gaze that sees the world as a reflection of the subject’s existence. This is best illustrated in “Batang EDSA (1982) and “Gabay” (1994), as well as the early painting “Kapit-bisig” (2006), in which the subjects’ eyes powerfully register, and affectively allude to,  the social forces that have occasioned the subject’s oppression.

Borlongan painted mostly tragic protagonists of a grotesque metropolis and ensembles of stereotypical urban figures that are Social Realism’s representative eyewitnesses. The relentlessly factual, and at the same time hallucinatory, social milieu in these paintings comprise the actual veristic core of an immense provocative body of work.

In the pictorial works, the representation of the body seems to trigger the kind of music that Borlongan’s paintings and drawings vaguely suggest. The facial expression disguises rather than reveals the suffering of his subjects, as in a painting of a child Sampaguita vendor in “Batang EDSA.” The humanoid faces of his stock figures are embodiments of certain attitudes rather than individualities, but with strongly accentuated eyes.

Borlongan’s visual language is uncomplicated, effective, sometimes shrill and eruptive. To a certain extent, it forms the optical equivalent of rock and punk music, which he used to play in his younger years as a member of a band. But if, on occasion, the painter cannot avoid the danger of routine, then his paintings stagger between smooth mannerism and a flat “onomatopoeia.” Borlongan is an exponent of a branch of figurative art that he represents with his fellow artists Emmanuel Garibay and Mark Justiniani and the rest of the Salingpusa group, whose works almost ritually allude to and quote one another.

Elmer Borlongan expresses in his pictures and drawings the most immediate sensations which moves large crowds of museum-goers. In this respect, his pictures are like that of a photojournalist, but in the flood of pictures, painting seems to hold more of our attention. There are always individual works that make us forget the saturation of our world by images because they appeal to us with a suggestive exclusivity. It is in these moments that Elmer Borlongan succeeds in such works, which – even if barely shown in public – become ‘icons of the present’, such as ‘Batang EDSA’, ‘Mobile Record Shop’,  and ‘Walang Iwanan’ which programmatically present us with the ‘Zeitgeist’ painting

What elevates the painting to the level of Zeitgeist is the homology between artistic motive and painterly practice. An autoreflexive moment comes into play that blends music and painting, artistic production and a sense of vitality. The paintings in question are charged with the energy of their subject, characterizing it, while at the same time the reflection on the painting process exceeds the actual occasion—despite his somewhat anemic repertoire of images.

Borlongan’s image panoramas are misunderstood as illustrations of today’s subcultural scene. Whoever looks at them in that way will certainly be shortchanged. One, however, would be overthinking if one appends an allegorical interpretation. While it is possible to read Borlongan’s pictures as works that capture the ‘Zeitgeist’, it would be too much of a stretch to suggest that they are allegories of our present moment, a “summing up” of the present that elicits hermeneutic completion.

Thus, the theorist brings the cosmology of the artist absolutely to the present. Borlongan is no longer a flâneur who, like Baudelaire during the second half of the 20th century, strolls the city from a detached perspective, reading the big city as though it were a text  about the human condition. Neither is he a gritty painter that sees the city as deranged as he is from the other side; Rather, he is someone who literally drowns in its cultural fringes, in hell-holes, where the contradictions and paradoxes collide harder than anywhere else. Perpetrators and victims become one.

In his catalog essay for the retrospective, the historian and now curator, Ambeth Ocampo points to a visceral reality in Borlongan’s painterly oeuvre. Symbols of a personal desire for expression such as the guitar are in the opinion of Ocampo, “against the anonymous brutality of modern city architecture”. Inhabitants of the Borlonganesque city seem to be petrified by the intimidating urban facades of an impersonal and instrumentalized social reality, as if confronted by the sight of Medusa’s gaze. This encounter is violent.

This is the totalitarian violence that the viewer shares with the world presented in the paintings; a moment in which our own inability to connect the painting with reality actualizes our complicity with the city’s structural violence. This is also manifested in the concrete boxes of Manila’s malls and apartment blocks and in protest sites of Mendiola which in its claustrophobic scale, elevates the desire for personal expression to an explosive register.

In Social Realism, society flows through the figures and shapes their expressivity. Maybe this expression is not personal, not even natural – in psychobiological terms – it is nonetheless a reflex of social coercion that works through painting primarily as a personal expression. And yet, to fully become Social Realism, this personal expression must transform into social expression, a demonstration of the total dominance of the society over the individual – its power gives the feeling, takes possession of the Borlonganesque body, and leaves nothing but a vestige of personal identity.

In fact, the Borlonganesque character rarely manifests agency, and is simply possessed by society in its most seductive and overwhelming form. In this perspective, the artistic work merely becomes a mosaic of motifs that merges unexpectedly in the painter’s milieu. Perhaps this is the ordinariness in which the painter mistakenly perceives his world. Far from extraordinary are the heads that break the cityscape by the violence of their growth, the singers and dancers, the vagabonds, who seem to have been catapulted into the scene without warning. How exactly is his gaze extraordinary when he has even restrained the mirror of social realism?

In Borlongan’s lightweight social realism, we cannot determine whether painting takes a step beyond the status quo or simply falls into the traditionalist recourse to the tried and tested. Where the painter avoids the pitfalls of routine, he succeeds by limiting himself to the most elementary repertoire of expressive figuration but still barely articulating the moving metaphors of the contemporary condition.

The exhibition Extraordinary Eye for the Ordinary ran from January 22 until March 28, 2018 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

Constancio Bernardo in Context

Image: Grabbed from the National Gallery of Singapore Facebook. Constancio Bernardo. Bernardian Synthesis No. 1. Image courtesy of Museo Bernardo Foundation, Inc.
Image: Grabbed from the National Gallery of Singapore Facebook. Constancio Bernardo. Bernardian Synthesis No. 1. Image courtesy of Museo Bernardo Foundation, Inc.

How was an artist like Constancio Bernardo drawn into the relatively new language of abstract painting? In mentioning his influences, what are their particular contributions to his work?

The history of Philippine painting runs like a list of forgotten geniuses whose contributions have largely been under-appreciated due to a dearth in scholarship. Such is the story of Constancio Bernardo, who painted like no other Filipino artist in the immediate post-war art scene in Manila. Alice G. Guillermo writes that Constancio Bernardo was “one of the earliest and most consistent exponents of abstract art in
the country.”


In 1978, Leonidas Benesa cited Bernardo as “the most underrated of the exponents of modern art in the Philippines” and as “second to none in this country” in the field of abstraction, “particularly of the geometric-planar, optical-painting variety.”


Refusing to be buffeted by the waves of public opinion, to be conditioned by the dictates of the art market, to solicit attention from collectors, to capitulate to pressures from the art world, or to pursue the trappings of fame, Bernardo chose to be steadfast in the discipline of his studio practice.  So quietly sustained was this commitment over the years that he was referred to by Eric Torres as “the invisible man of Philippine painting.”

He has worked in series, combining geometrism and color research in such work groupings as the Bernardian series,  A testament to his obscurity lies in the fact that the main document to his life as a painter is a biography written by his son.  As a testament to his talents, he started teaching at the UP School of Fine Arts one year before his graduation for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1947. Before the war, Bernardo spent seven years finishing a Certificate in Fine Arts course because of financial difficulties.


In 1948, Fernando Amorsolo recommended him for a Fulbright Scholarship to study painting at the Yale School of Fine Arts. As early as 1950, or just before finishing his second Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting, he began to explore the kind of geometric abstraction initiated by Russian Suprematists even before being mentored by Josef Albers of Black Mountain and Bauhaus, who was then teaching a master class at the Yale School of Fine Arts. Albers proclaimed that Bernardo would become a great artist who will contribute greatly to Philippine art but upon returning home, he was relegated to teaching art history rather than studio classes at UP. Sidelined by Amorsolo and his ilk, he retreated to painting abstraction privately and showing only figurative works in Manila Galleries until the 1970s when a younger generation fully embraced the new artistic language.

By then he was middle-aged with a personality as subdued as his color combinations. While he remained obscure, shunning a Manila art scene that was heavy on social-climbing. His intermittent recognition never gained full steam and commercial success seemed elusive. No other Filipino painter has done abstraction that is as elegant and as authentic, that it can hold a candle against artists in the Western Tradition. When he arrived at Yale in 1948 (he was already aged 35), Josef Albers treated him as a contemporary rather than a colleague.

Turn to abstraction

Constancio Bernardo’s son, Angelo identified his father’s turning point from representation to abstraction: “Two of his studies [on geometric abstractions] are dated February 24, 1950 and March 14, 1950. (They could be pre-Albers). My father’s US journal from 1948 to 1952 mentioned a consultation with Albers for school requirements (only) on June 25, 1950. He attended Alber’s lecture on color fields (and color abstraction) at Yale on September 20, 1950.”

Also mentioned were Bernardo’s other modernist mentors and influences at Yale: Wilhelm De Kooning (who “went to his classes in clogs”); Pennsylvania-born Franz Kline, whose black and white calligraphic works were originally sketches made on telephone books; and Washington-born Robert Motherwell, “abstract expressionist’s philosophical spokesman.”

“They did not insist anything except [for us] to be free. Walang ginigiit kundi maging libre kami [in art exploration],” Angelo recalled his father as saying.

Bernardo was also exposed to other European abstract painters who came ahead of Albers in the US, such as Russian Jew Mark Rothko, Armenia-born Arshile Gorky, and German Hans Hoffman.

Bernardo also admitted to poet Ricaredo Demetillo in 1956 one major influence: Dutch Piet Mondrian, who painted “motion” by rolling on a canvas on the floor—with paint on his body.

A series of retrospectives in 2013 for his 100th birth anniversary have revealed the previously unexhibited paintings , which are said to be only a fraction of the works he threw away and covered up in countless moments of self-doubt. Also shown were sketches, evidence of the natural skill that made Amorsolo see him as a disciple before the war. The recognition came too late as Constancio Bernardo had already died quietly ten years ago in 2003. Despite being, highly educated and highly talented and early recognition as the father of abstract painting as early as 1952 he is least likely be elevated to the Order of National Artists.

The exhibition “Constancio Bernardo: The Early Drawings 1948-1955” explicitly refers to the eye-opening exhibition “Constancio Bernardo: The Years in America 1948-1954” and its catalog, published in 1992 by the Ateneo Art Gallery had been presented. Robin Rivera had already written the main text in this first catalog, and the continuation of his investigation has now resulted in the exhibition and catalog of drawings from Bernardo’s years in Yale, organized by the Ayala Museum and the Museo Constancio Bernardo, Ateneo has issued (overlaps exist only to a limited extent).

The drawings of these early, experimental years, in which Bernardo developed his own imagery along with his own artistic problem, are not more private than the paintings of that time, but they are much clearer and consistent material of Bernardo’s pictorial investigations. For paintings that were intended to be public in the first place, only a few ‘successful’ pictorial solutions were ever made, while in the drawings the various approaches, experiments and preliminary results of his search can be traced much more clearly. These drawings have practically not reached the public; almost all the exhibits in the extensive exhibition with more than 220 drawings and collages come from Bernardo’s private collection.


Constancio Bernardo

Constancio Bernardo came to the United States in October 1948, at the age of 35, on a scholarship for faculty members of the UP College of Fine Arts; After the end of the scholarship, he worked at the American school in Paris and returned in July 1954, after a disease, back to Manila.

In these years, especially in 1950/51, he developed in a series of experiments his own problems, which are far removed from the simultaneous American developments of Color Field Painting and Abstract Expressionism and which gave him a unique position in Europe as well as in Europe granted to Filipinos. In contrast to the abstract expressionists in the United States, while he partially took up positions of radical abstract painting in Europe, particularly Josef Albers, he came to completely different types of paintings and problems, on the one hand, spatially, between Europe and on the other hand, in terms of time, between the abstract modernity that prevailed in the 1950s and late Modernism since the 1960s, so that he preceded the new uses of ‘materialistic painting’ (Ryman) as a pioneer. It is a special pleasure in this exhibition to understand the individual steps and attempts close up, in which Constancio Bernardo finds, tests, discards and revisits solutions for his unfolding problem.

Constancio Bernardo Rhapsody Square, 1979 Acrylic on Wood 36x36 in
The square, a principal obsession of the artist, is developed exclusively in the Rhapsody Square series, which continues the legacy of Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square. In the Rhapsody Square series, the artist deals with the same concept of colored square within a square of a different hue, based on the research into color perception begun by Albers and the bauhaus color experiments. – CCP Encyclopedia of Art (Alice G. Guillermo). Image: Constancio Bernardo Rhapsody Square, 1979 Acrylic on Wood 36×36 in. Photo: AngelxMusic Flickr.

For his main interest since 1949, after Picasso-oriented beginnings, was to drive out of painting composition and subjectivity, to liberate the painting from its dependence on pictorial intentions; the painting should become anonymous and neutral, without subjective expression and symbolic meaning, freed from the burden of subjectivity. Consequently, painting could no longer be concerned with the creation of works or the self-expression of a creative subject: paintings could become neutral only by picking up on what already exists (as form and color) and transforming it into a painting , The most difficult problem, therefore, was deciding how, in what material, in which color, in what format the transposition of what was seen (recorded or photographed) should take place, what parameters of transformation of the existing into a painting could be used. And just as a drawing or a painting should no longer be a creative work, it could no longer be beautiful; only to the extent that it could no longer express a creative author, could it show its own, previously unperceived, objective beauty, the beauty of what is already in sight, what is quite obvious, but has not yet been seen or overlooked – and which Bernardo himself soon captured in photographs.

There was a palpable sense of completeness in the way he approached his works, a proof of his great involvement in each piece. He mixed his own paints, diligently worked in his studio, and made his handiwork complete by creating the frames for his art works.

Bernardo tried to dispel the composition and intentionality of painting in a variety of ways: in 1950 he experimented with drawings he made blindfolded, in an automatic hand, or without looking at the page, at the drawn branches or Hanger stapled. On the other hand, he recorded found forms that were created by chance, such as cracks in a window or holes in the road surface. These findings introduced an objective coincidence, which is at work both in the formation of forms and in the finding of forms. In 1951, in connection with his work as a teacher, he tested, partly with his students, the spraying and dribbling of ink; He also used the traces of dirt left behind at work. A dream he described in a letter led to the next step, a systematization of coincidence as well as stroke: “… I would be busy with a large injection work, according to the method of the sixth graders and collleagues, when I suddenly came up with the idea of a truly great work, something that could be linked to architecture … This dream was something I had been waiting for. ” The result was ‘Cité’, a collage of slashed automatic brushstrokes randomly recombined. The so-developed random distributions of collaged ‘grids’ from the fragments of dissected drawings completely destroyed the unity and perceptibility of the painted (or ‘repainted’, found in the world) strokes. Subsequent combinatorial attempts led to a kind of textbook entitled “Form, Line, Color,” which was not published, and which does not show a strictly legal, logical sequence, but rather an increasingly irregular play of simple forms and techniques To dye. For his colors, with which he increasingly worked in 1951, were found colors: he used gummed colored paper, which can be used very well for collages. The specified monochrome color areas (from a palette of about 20 colors) were also defined as shapes by cutting, so that the color field and shape coincide. This work led to the well-known paintings of several monochrome panels hanging side by side on the wall, involving the wall as a negative and articulated space, and in 1955, after returning to New York, to the first curves.

Constancio Bernarco was born on December 22, 1913 in Obando in the province of Bulacan. He studied Fine Arts from 1937 to 1941 and from 1947 to 1948 at the University of the Philippines, where he received lessons from, among others, Fernando Amorsolo and his brother Pablo Amorsolo. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree he left for the United States, where he studied at Yale with a Fullbright scholarship. There he received his bachelor’s degree in 1951 and his master’s degree in 1952. After returning to the Philippines, he worked as a lecturer until 1978 and later as associate professor and assistant dean at the University of the Philippines.

In addition to his work as a teacher, Bernardo was active as an artist. He belonged to the second wave of modernist artists including H. R. Ocampo, Vicente Manansala and Carlos Francisco. Bernardo mainly painted abstract works of art and already held his first individual exhibition on the UP in 1953. Later exhibitions followed in 1956, 1958, 1971 and 1973. In 1978, the Museum of Philippine Art (MOPA) organized a retrospective of his entire career. Although Bernardo was praised early in his career by art critics and other painters, recognition and publicity remained with the general public. In contrast to his modernist contemporaries Ocampo, Manasala and Francisco, he was not appointed a national artist of the Philippines.


Bernardo died in 2003 at the age of 89 in the Philippine Lung Center from the effects of pneumonia. He was married to Nieves de Guzman and had two sons with her. The exhibition will be on view at Ayala Museum Third Floor Galleries until March 2, 2014.

Further reading

Bernardo, Angelo. Constancio Bernardo: A Life in Sketches. Soumak Collections, Manila. 2013. Softcover / 12 x 5.5 inches / 50 pages / Color

A companion to the monograph on Constancio Bernardo (1913 – 2003) published on the occasion of the artist’s centennial anniversary in 2013, Constancio Bernardo: A Life in Sketches is a personal biography written by the artist’s son, Angelo G. Bernardo. The book includes a selection of rarely seen portraits and figure drawings by the artist who is honored for his contributions to the development of abstraction in the Philippines. A comprehensive curriculum vitae compiled by the author also provides a rich source of information about the artist’s life and career that spans over 60 years.


Yolanda Johnson, Ringo Bunoan and Carina Evangelista, Constancio Bernard. Soumak Collections, Manila. 2013. Softcover/ 12 x 11 inches / 144 pages / Color ISBN: 978-971-94920-1-6

Constancio Bernardo (1913 – 2013) is a pioneering Filipino abstractionist known for his geometric and color-field paintings. He returned to the Philippines in the early 50s after graduating from Yale University where he studied under Josef Albers and pursued a life-long commitment to painting and teaching at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. This monograph accompanies the centennial retrospective held at Ayala Museum in Manila in November 2013 and provides the first opportunity to view the full range of Bernardo’s works, from his critically-acclaimed abstract works to his lesser-known classical drawings and figurative paintings. Includes texts by Yolanda Johnson, Ringo Bunoan and Carina Evangelista.


La Mujer Filipina by Felix Hidalgo

Some doubts have been casts on the authenticity of a Felix Hidalgo painting which was sold by auction recently.

FÉLIX RESURRECCIÓN HIDALGO Y PADILLA (Filipinas, 1855 – España, 1913).
“Nativa Filipina”.
Óleo sobre lienzo.

The most common misgivings are that the painting did not seem to conform to the fashion style of the period when Felix Hidalgo was living, that the painting did not seem to be Filipina, and that the painting is not painted in the style that Hidalgo is known for which is slightly impressionistic.

While the authenticity of the painting is debatable, it would be interesting to speculate on the possibility of Hidalgo painting such a picture. Upon further comparison and closer inspection, one would find out that the style is consistent with his Manila Academy period paintings done before 1879, before he left for further studies in Spain. One can check the paintings posted online and it would be easy to observe that there are two versions of this painting, this one and the other with a lighter tone. Its possible that Felix Hidalgo, painted the same subject twice, once when he was in Manila and the other when he was in Paris shortly after. Artists often revisit former subjects and styles throughout their careers. A portrait without headgear and some décolletage would be daring at any point in Hidalgo’s career and this is probably the point of the painting: an erotic picture, or it could just be about the string of pearls.  Hidalgo started his career as an illustrator and the pearls could be the real subject of this painting. The golden colored pearls give her away, as these have been sourced then and now, in the Philippines. This is definitely a portrait of a Filipina, at least that’s the intention. cf. El Pescador de Sacag painted in 1875 in Manila but is now in the Prado Museum Collection. Hidalgo did not always paint in the impressionist style that he is known for today.

Decolletage was common in Pre-Victorian fashion, also off-shoulder dresses were worn in portraits done by Raden Saleh (cf. Portrait of a lady in Java). Victorian fashion covered the woman’s body, so this picture might be of a woman wearing a dress that has been out of fashion or the painting is a “throwback”. That or this is a pleated undergarment. Filipinas were hardly in-step with fashion trends in Europe, it is after all a portrait of a “Mujer Filipina” and didn’t wear corsets (consistent with this painting) as noted by a Dutch traveller to the Philippines in the 1880s. Fashion styles vary from places and times, but French paintings definitely showed cleavage during this period. I wouldn’t be shocked of bare breasts or a Filipina wearing an outdated European style of clothing. The skintone and her look may appear severe to some but this could be the result of limitations in pigment available at that time. Consistent with other paintings Hidalgo painted before 1879 and the fact that the painting is owned by a Governor General who was assigned in Manila, I am lead to believe that the painting could be a copy painted in his Paris studio of a previous painting , hence the peculiar signature. It is not surprising to have exemptions to a particular style for a particular period in an artistic career. A “remix”, painted for another collector who wanted the same painting.