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Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo (1924-1984) was an early Philippine painter who is best known for his abstract paintings that were frequently created in black and white. His works were influenced by Abstract Expressionism as well as Asian art and calligraphy.
The Zóbel de Ayala family was well known and they were very successful in their business ventures. Fernando Zobel was born in Manila in the Philippines in 1924 and his father was a patron of the famous Filipino artist Fernando Amorsolo. Zobel was Amorsolo's student, and he eventually went on to earn a degree in history and literature from Harvard University in 1949. During his time in Boston he experimented with various artistic techniques. His first solo exhibition was at the Philippine Art Gallery in Manila in 1953. While visiting the Rhode Island School of Design in 1954 he was introduced to the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko, and these works had a strong influence on his emerging unique style.
Zobel returned to the Philippines in the late 1950's and continued to create artworks while assisting his family with their business interests. He was loved and admired for his kind and generous nature as well as his artistic talents. He was a poet and avid art collector, and was very active in the art scene in his country, serving as President of the Philippine Art Association at one point. He helped to promote and encourage upcoming modern artists and was very influential.
In the 1960's he moved to Cuenca, Spain, and was eventually awarded a posthumous medal by the city after passing away in 1984 while visiting Rome. In 2006 was he also posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit.