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Considered to be one of the foremost Abstract Expressionist painters from the Philippines, José Joya was born and raised in Manila and studied under prominent Filipino artists Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. He then went on to study painting in Spain at the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica before attending the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan where he earned his Master’s Degree in painting in 1957. Around this time, he began to be influenced by American abstract painters and Philippine modernism and experimented with his own techniques. He went on to develop a unique, dynamic style characterized by a nuanced understanding of color and mesmerizing use of line and texture.
Joya was not just an important artist, but also a cultural force in his home country. He was president of the Art Association of the Philippines (1962-1965), served as Dean of his alma mater from 1970 to 1978, chairman of the Philippine Delegation to China (1961, 1972), founder of VACOOP—the Visual Artists Cooperative of the Philippines, and served as chairperson of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts from 1987 until his death. Joya was the recipient of numerous honors, including the French government’s Chevalier dans I’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1967 and, posthumously, the title of National Artist For Visual Arts in 2003 from President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. His work was exhibited extensively throughout his life and after his death, and can be found in collections worldwide, including the Harvard Art Museum, Yuchengco Museum, and the British Museum.