Chong Neto, Manuel – Panama

1927-2010 | Latin American Art


This Panamanian artist had a Chinese father and a Panamanian mother. In 1952 he started his painting studies at the National School of Art, where he remained until 1965 when he enrolled at the National Autonomous University of Mexico to specialise in graphic arts. He took part in collective and individual exhibitions from 1961 onwards.

In addition to being an artist, Chong Neto worked as a teacher, starting at the age of 19 by giving classes to women over 25 at the Liceo de Señoritas in Panama. He would later become a high school art teacher and, after 1970, also taught at the Casa de la Escultura, National School of Art, and National University.



He was a figurative artist who produced works that draw attention to the expressive use of the mark and the careful balance of contrasts, colours and the use of light and shadow. In his work both the depiction of the female figure and voluminous forms have a constant presence, usually shown in sensual and mysterious environments.

An expressive and symbolic use of his figures can also be perceived in the depiction of large almond-shaped eyes, characters with shortened necks and distorted shapes.

His compositions are based on geometric shapes without reaching abstraction. This compositional resource allowed the artist to emphasise and capture the essence of details. From here he manages to juxtapose different planes within the same work. Thus, through the cult of the female figure, Chong Neto uses the modern woman to allude to history and human beings, obliging the viewer to carry out an exercise in historical memory to understand the references to this transfigured universe.

Known mainly for his “gorditas” or “chongnetian” female figures, as they are known, Chong Neto also stands out for his still-life work. In them we see how he eliminates all the opulence that is so typical in his works in other genres, and uses simple but effective resources instead. Through a thick palette of earthy colours, the painter manages to capture the effects of light and shadow that characterise his work.


Silvia Sánchez Ruiz