Oscar ZALAMEDA (1930-2010)

Oscar De Zalameda, who was a favorite artist of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, was a native of the Philippines who  attended Tayabas High School (now Quezon National High School) in Lucena City, graduating in 1949

After earning his  Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Santo Tomas, where he was influenced by his professor Vicente Manansala, Zalameda left the Philippines in 1953 to study art in San Francisco. An AAP and Shell award winner, he earned an award at the Art League of California Competition in 1954. Zalameda also later studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts and the Sorbonne in Paris.

After practicing mural techniques in Mexico in 1955 Zalameda began his career as a fine artist and soon exhibited in New York, Paris, Barcelona, Hamburg, Monte Carlo and Milan. He then returned to the Philippines to show his work at the Philam Life Pavilion in 1963. The following year, he exhibited at the National Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. In 1966, First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos invited him to hold a one-man show at the Malacañang Palace. Soon afterwards Zalameda mounted a Manila exhibition of 16 paintings priced at P7,000 each, which at the time was the price of a Volkswagen Beetle.

With his high-society connections, Zalameda was a hedonist who lived well, drinking, smoking and partying with the jet-set that surrounded the Marcos family and their friends. He spent many years living in Europe and shortened his middle name (Deveza) to “de” in order to suggest that he came from an aristocratic family. With a flair for the outlandish and the outrageous, Zalameda once turned down successive offers of P10,000 and P40,000 to painting a well-known socialite in the nude. In one much discussed incident, the couturier Moreno Pitoy and Zalameda once got into a shouting match at a posh hotel that ended with Zalameda grabbing a plate to throw it at the other man. When Pitoy grabbed a fork and challenged him Zalameda backed down.

Zalameda’s work, which initially resembled the work of Fernando Zobel, moved towards a breezy form of cubism that was decorative and sophisticated. He employed gem-toned planes of color that intersect and overlap to generate abstract relationships and color harmonies.

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