Guillermo Tolentino at the White House

You probably know the story of Mr. Tolentino, Philippine National Artist for Sculpture, meeting US President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Mr. Tolentino was a waiter in DC, one of his customers arranged for him to meet President Wilson, he presented the President with a small mother-and-child statue (“Pax”) that he sculpted, Mr. Wilson loved it, and Mr. Wilson then asked his friend Bernard Baruch, the New York investor, to help support Mr. Tolentino’s art studies. ( “I have seen some of your work, and I am very much interested in it,” Mr. Baruch wrote to Mr. Tolentino the following month.)

A number of people (including historian Ambeth Ocampo) have written about that meeting and we also wrote about it a couple of years ago:…/finding-philippine-art-in-washin…/ The statue is on display at the Woodrow Wilson House near Dupont Circle.

Yesterday, thanks to staff of the Library of Congress, we tracked down the diary of the Head Usher of the White House and found this entry. President Wilson met Mr. Tolentino on Monday, August 18, 1919 at 9:30 am. Mr. Wilson must have then shown the statue to Mr. Baruch two days later when they had dinner together.

After completing his art studies in New York (thanks to Mr. Baruch’s financial support) and Europe, Mr. Tolentino moved back to Manila in January 1926, opened his studio, and received a teaching appointment at the University of the Philippines — 91 years ago this month.

And the rest is…Philippine art history.guillermo-tolentino-appointment


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