Fernando Botero

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  • Topic: History of painting, Colombia, Art history
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  • Published : September 28, 2005
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Botero, Fernando (1932- ), Colombian painter and sculptor who is noted for the round, slightly comic figures that began to appear in his works during the 1960s. Born in Medellín, Colombia, Botero attended a school for matadors from 1944 to 1946. He first exhibited his paintings in 1948 in Medellín with other artists from the region. At that time he was influenced by the work of Mexican artists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco. After working briefly as a theater set designer, he moved in 1951 to Bogotá, Colombia's capital. His paintings of this period show the influences of French painter Paul Gauguin and of early work by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. In 1952 Botero began studies at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, Spain, visiting the Prado Museum daily. He went to Paris in 1953, studying the old masters in the Louvre Museum. Later that year, he traveled to Florence, Italy, where he studied such Italian masters as Giotto and Piero della Francesca. Botero first visited the United States in 1957, buying a studio in New York City in 1960. A number of the works he executed from 1959 to 1961 show the influence of the New York abstract expressionism movement in their visible brushwork. After this long period of development, the painting style he is best known for emerged around 1964. It is characterized by inflated, rounded forms, painted with smooth, almost invisible brushstrokes, and typically depicting human figures, as in The Presidential Family (1967, Museum of Modern Art, New York City). In its composition, this work was influenced by the official portraits of monarchs and members of the royal family painted by Spanish artists Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez. Throughout his career Botero has looked to the work of past masters, often quoting aspects of their works, but exaggerating the proportions to fit his own humorous and voluptuous style. Although he continued to paint, Botero moved his studio from New York City to Paris in 1973 and began to sculpt. Sculptures such as Big Hand (1976-1977, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D. C.) extend his painting style into three dimensions. Another large outdoor bronze, Broadgate Venus (1990, Broadgate Centre, London), is an overinflated version of a traditional artistic subject. In his paintings of the late 1980s Botero concentrated on subjects taken from bullfighting. (copyright 2002 Microsoft Encarta)

Fernando Botero
Humanist / Universalist
by Edward J. Sullivan

The art of Fernando Botero is widely known, revered, paraphrased, imitated and copied, For many, his characteristic rounded, sensuous forms of the human figure, animals, still life's and landscapes represent the most easily identifiable examples of the modern art of Latin America. For others, he is a cultural hero. To travel with Botero in his native Colombia is to come to realize that he is often seen less as an artist and more as a popular cult figure. In his native Medellín he is mobbed by people wanting to see him, touch him or have him sign his name to whatever substance they happen to be carrying. On the other hand, Botero's work has been discredited by those theorists of modern art whose tastes are dictated more by intellectual fashion than by the perception of the power of his images. Botero is undoubtedly one of the most successful artists in both commercial and popular terms, and an artist whose paintings deal with many of the issues that have been at the heart of the Latin American creative process in the twentieth century. An indispensable figure on many international art and social scenes on at least three continents, Botero's 'persona' might be compared to that of one of the seventeenth -century artists he so much admires, Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens represents the epitome of the standard notions of the "baroque". His own fleshy, eroticized figures exist in a world of exuberance and plenitude in both the realms of the sacred and the...
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