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Musings on Betsy Westendorp

Above: Betsy Westendorp, ‘Untitled, Painting #949,’ 1997, oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.

For this month’s “The Well-Appointed Life,” it’s only fitting for us to take a good look at the pieces that shine the spotlight on women.

I do not remember seeing a Betsy Westendorp painting that I did not like. Perhaps it’s my penchant for flowers or dreamy landscapes, but I’ve always looked forward to seeing any of her paintings whenever I would cover auction events.

Call me peculiar, but there’s a strange force that pulls me in whenever I stand in front of her atmosferagrafias, as if I’m invited to envision the sunsets that the late artist loved viewing across Manila Bay. It’s almost therapeutic.

Also, it’s always a delight to appreciate the orchids and other flora that she brings to life on canvas—you understand, through the colors and meticulous detail, how she loved flowers and painted them with passion and intention.

The Westendorp piece up for auction in the March edition of Salcedo Auctions’ “The Well-Appointed Life” depicts an ethereal landscape at sunset foregrounded by dainty flowers. It testifies to the musings I wrote above, but it also comes with an even more meaningful story: it was Betsy’s wedding gift to her granddaughter Carla Aguirre de Cárcer Brias, who got married just last year.

Betsy Westendorp, ‘Untitled,’ 1998, oil on canvas. From the artist’s collection.

Incidentally, Carla was my co-intern for a now-defunct men’s lifestyle magazine back in the summer of 2017. It was only midway through that internship that she told me about her grandmother who loved to paint—a strong woman in her then late-eighties who still kept active and worked on expansive canvases, capturing atmospheric scenes and delicate flowers. It was only months after the internship that I learned this woman was, indeed, Betsy Westendorp.

Thus began my inquiry and appreciation for the oeuvre of one of the stalwarts of Philippine art, a celebrated painter who created portraits of high society and royalty in the Philippines and Spain, and, of course, of flora and atmosferagrafias.

I can only imagine how special yet bittersweet it is for Carla—and her whole family, for that matter—to part ways with this painting. More than a depiction of motifs that Betsy loved, it seems to symbolize the love, passion, and intention that only the artist—herself a woman, mother, grandmother, and more—can only understand.

There are more pieces up for auction this month at Salcedo that pay homage to women. Motherhood by Isabel Diaz, which was used by the United Nations for their World Population Year campaign calendar in 1974, follows the Art Nouveau style of Gustav Klimt. Then, Nena Saguil—a pioneer in Filipino abstract art and a mainstay in these auctions—returns with “Harvest.”

Isabel Diaz, ‘Motherhood,’ c.1974, oil on canvas

From national artist BenCab, there is an untitled painting depicting two women in native attire from the Larawan series; a pair of 1980s works from the Geisha series; a sizeable Sabel metal cutout sculpture, and a sought after tapestry also based on the Larawan series.

BenCab,‘ Untitled (Two Women),’ 1998, oil on canvas

There are more noteworthy pieces to discover in this year’s second edition of “The Well-Appointed Life”— a showcase of ‘Important Philippine Art,’ a ‘Connoisseur Collection’ of rare furniture and collectibles, and a private sale of ‘Fine Jewelry & Timepieces.’

Salcedo Auctions’ The Well-Appointed Life live and online auction, co-presented by Exclusive Bank Partner HSBC, takes place on Saturday, 18 March 2023 at 2PM. Browse the online catalogue via The in-person preview starts on Thursday, March 10.  For inquiries or bidding assistance, email or phone +632 8823.0956 | +63917 591.2191. Follow @salcedoauctions on IG and FB.