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Born in Medellin, Colombia in 1932, Fernando Botero moved in 1951 to Bogota, where he had his first individual exhibition at the Leo Matiz

He studied in Madrid at the San Fernando Academy and in Florence, where he learned the fresco techniques of the Italian masters. In 1956 he taught at the School of Fine Arts of the University of Bogota and traveled to Mexico City to study the work of Rivera and Orozco. In 1957 he exhibited at the Pan American Union inWashington.

During the sixties in New York Botero developed a form of figurative painting integrating Renaissance and Baroque painting with the colonial tradition of Latin America.

In 1969 the Inflated Images exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York established him as a major painter.

Since 1972 he has had individual exhibitions at the Marlborough Gallery in New York, Buchholz Gallery in Munich, and Galerie Claude Bernard in Paris.

In 1993 Fernando Botero was honored with an exhibition of his sculpture along the Champs Elysees, the first non-French artist to exhibit at this venue. Botero has also been honored with an individual exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris.

(Source: ArtScene)
Fernando Botero is a Colombian painter and sculptor who is noted for the rotund, slightly comic figures that began to appear in his works during the 1960s. His paintings of this period show the influences of French painter Paul Gauguin and of early work by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

In 1948, he started work as an illustrator. In 1950, he went to Europe, where he attended the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, copied Velázquez and Goya in the Prado and admired the frescoes in Florence He went to Paris in 1953, studying the old masters in the Louvre Museum.

He went on a long visit to Mexico in 1956-57 and the experience of Muralism significantly influenced his future direction 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, puffing up to an exaggerated size human figures, natural features, and objects of all kinds, celebrating the life within them while mocking their role in the world. He combined the regional with the universal, constantly referring to his native Colombia and also creating elaborate parodies of works of art from the past - whether Dürer, Bonnard, Velázquez or David.

Not without humour, the symbols of power and authority everywhere - presidents, soldiers and churchmen - are targeted in his attacks on a society still infantile in its behaviour.

The monumental bronze sculptures and distinctive paintings of Colombian-born artist Fernando Botero were at the centre of controversy in 1993. After an extremely popular exhibition of Botero's sculptures of exaggerated human and animal forms was mounted in late 1992 on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, a similar exhibition was held (Sept. 7-Nov. 14, 1993) on prestigious Park Avenue in New…

"Fernando Botero, Colombian painter. In 1948, he started work as an illustrator. In 1950, he went to Europe, where he attended the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, copied Velázquez and Goya in the Prado and admired the frescoes in Florence. He went on a long visit to Mexico in 1956-57 and the experience of Muralism significantly influenced his future direction. In his own work, he introduced inflated forms, puffing up to an exaggerated size human figures, natural features, and objects of all kinds, celebrating the life within them while mocking their role in the world. He combined the regional with the universal, constantly referring to his native Colombia and also creating elaborate parodies of works of art from the past - whether Dürer, Bonnard, Velázquez or David . Not without humour, the symbols of power and authority everywhere - presidents, soldiers and churchmen - are targeted in his attacks on a society still infantile in its behaviour."
Humanist / Universalist (*)
Botero: Artist and Art Historian

In a sense, all great artists are well-informed art historians. Throughout the history of Western painting, borrowings and appropriations have been both subtle and blatant on the part of major and minor artists from the Renaissance and beyond. Although the notion of giving new life to older compositions has been codified only in the twentieth century (the greatest proponent of this trend being Picasso), earlier masters discreetly built their oeuvres upon a repertory of visual images and themes developed by past painters. Fernando Botero has brought the art of appropriation to new heights in the later years of this century.

Picasso systematically mined the fields of art historical invention, passing from El Greco - through Velázquez and Poussin to Lucas Cranach and, finally, Courbet and Manet. Botero casts his net even wider. We have already commented above on the significance of his expressionist recastings, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. At virtually the same time, Botero's glance fell upon more modern artists such as Cézanne and, in 1963, he painted a large Madame Cézanne in the Gorden.This work, in which the gestural brush appears to be more gentle and controlled than formerly, is unusual in its insistence upon a dark palette.The predominant color here is dark brown, punctuated only by the orange hair and pink scarf of Madame Cézanne. Even the flowers themselves, elements which usually offer the artist the opportunity to present virtual riots of color, are monochrome and subdued.

Mantegna had captured Botero's attention while he was still a student in Italy. The early versions, such as the 1958 Homage to Mantegna I, of the Camera degli Sposi's group portraits of the Gonzaga family (with pride of place on the lower level going to the cat and the female dwarf), offer us an analogous deadpan revisiting of the somber family and their entourage; they reappeared in Botero's oeuvre on other occasions. Italian artists of the Renaissance and Baroque traditions have continued to nurture Botero's fantasy.

Botero's imagination was not captured by the Italian artists alone. He also penetrated the more tempered realms of the Northern Renaissance, Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding in the National Gallery, London, is a virtually "anti-Botero'' image given its diminutive size. However, in a work of 1978, Botero gave the participants in this marriage-consecrating picture a monumental presence that memorializes them in a twentieth-century context. In Peter Paul Rubens, Botero found a perfect match for his ambitions of immensity. Rubens - artist of vast historical compositions, mythological scenes of Hollywood-spectacle proportions, ambitious hunting parties, and religious opuses peopled by muscular saints and voluptuous virgins - must certainly have been a challenge for Botero, whose own visions are of considerable volume and girth. Curiously, it was not on any of the challenging scenographic spectacles that Botero fixed his attention, but rather on the gracious and voluptuous women that Rubens painted. The various versions of Mrs. Rubens of the 1960s confront us with a charming woman in a fancy feathered hat, staring out at her public with a demurely sensuous gaze.

Of all the Renaissance and Baroque artists who have sparked Botero's interest, none has been as much of a magnet for his creativity as Diego Velázquez.The greatest master of the Spanish Golden Age,Velázquez has traditionally served as both inspiration and challenge for artists from Spain and Latin America (and elsewhere, of course), Botero came into first-hand contact with Velázquez's work in Madrid, in 1952 (when he studied at the Royal Academy of San Fernando).The Prado was naturally the place to which he gravitated, and Velázquez and Goya soon became his most important teachers during that period. As has occurred in the case of many artists in the past, Velázquez's greatest achievement, the 1656 Las Meninas, was the image that proved to be the biggest challenge to Botero.This painting is many things, from group portrait, to the artist's self portrait, to the investigation of the potential of reflection (with the use of mirrors) and spacial recession. The Impressionists admired the Spanish artist's expertise at suggesting light effects, as well as the brilliance of his painting of both cloth and jewels, especially in the figure of the little princess Margarita, who is the focal point of the composition. Curiously, Botero did not pick up the challenge of the composition as a whole. Instead, he extracted figures from it, especially that of the Infanta, and the 1977 "After Velázquez offers his discreet homage to this great master painting. In the 1985 Self Portrait as Velázquez, Botero dresses himself as the Spanish artist, playing, in a post-modern sense, with realities and personalities as they are transformed by an exchange of dress.

Botero also connected with the humanity and compassion of Velázquez's paintings, and deeply admired the latter's series of portraits of the dwarfs employed by the court of King Philip IV as both jesters and care-takers for the royal children.The tradition of portraying court dwarfs is an old one in European art, but Velázquez was the first to paint them with a sense of humanity and insight into their individuality. It was this characteristic that drove Botero to concentrate on these figures in his own series of paintings, which includes the 1984 Mari Bárbola d'après Velázquez.

Eighteenth-century artists such as Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and Hyacinthe Rigaud were also examined on several occasions by Botero, who even inserted his own self portrait into a 1973 version of Rigaud's Louis XIV. Of the nineteenth-century traditions, Botero has looked with intense scrutiny at Ingres. His interest in the master of the expressive line and the champion of a decorous neo-classical reserve is not surprising, In Botero's 1979 Mademoiselle Rivière (No. 2) 1805, after Ingres, the sensuality of the original model is enhanced in the Colombian artist's exalted conception of this elegant woman. Reminiscences (if not direct appropriations) of Edouard Manet's ground-breaking composition Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe) are also found in several paintings depicting picnics by Botero.

Perhaps Botero's most interesting compositions in the realm of ''art and art history" represent the interiors of art galleries. Pictures such as The Botero Exhibition of 1975 may be read on many levels. On one hand, these gallery scenes (in which every work on display is by Botero himself) gently satirize the act of commercial display of works of art. In their bringing together representations of paintings (as well as the individuals observing them) which, in real life, are found in disparate collections. He is reminding us of the Renaissance tradition of ''picture gallery paintings'' as exemplified in the eighteenth century by Giovanni Paolo Pannini. At the same time, in painting his own gallery pictures, Botero is inserting himself within the culture of the art world and art history, declaring his position as an artist whose work, ''en masse'', is worthy of contemplation, admiration, and acquisition.
Life and Work within the Century
by Jean-Marie Tasset
Beware of painting so easily recognized, of those surprising but rapidly familiar figures, of the unlikely and peaceful universe that naive enthusiasts think can be taken in at a glance. Things are not as simple as they look. Indeed, nothing is simple in Botero's work, least of all his play on appearances.

This is painting that tends to disconcert, offering up as it does colors, and obvious or very simple forms, that are not what we expected. Often, our gaze turns away from the obvious, when the obvious is there to throw it into confusion.

Take a better look!
This is painting that not only comes from afar but leads afar, beyond the mirror; an art born of patience and passion, of a long journey through time and space, across an imaginary world peopled with glorious ghosts of the past, and enriched by myriad encounters. A world that mixes pell-mell the artist's strong memories of his youth in Latin America, the still vivid traces of Pre-Colombian art, his discovery of modern European art and his deeply moving encounter with the Italian Renaissance Masters, followed by the shock of the New York avant-gardism of the sixties and America's teeming artistic milieu. Painting, then, that is the fruit of a lifetime devoted entirely to being a painter, to developing a singular oeuvre rooted in reality, but haunted by a masterfully reined spirit of the bizarre. Painting that ranks among today's very best.

In the words of Marc Fumaroli : "Through the cunning magic of his brush, dwarfs become giants, cats become tigers, girls become whales. But the giants have dwarfs' heads, the tigers have cats' paws, and the whales the lips of little girls. A universe of the unlikely, that comes across so clearly and faithfully in rhetoric, in fables and tales, in short, in childhood."(1)

Nowadays, to represent something commonly means to furnish the visible aspect of it. To Botero, on the contrary, it means to diverge from an object's aspect, to describe a detour around it beyond similarity and designation; that is, to enter into the paradoxical realm of ambiguity and dissimilarity. Botero's painting targets presence more than representation; it is intended to advance towards the eye, which it seeks to perturb, to move.

Fernando Botero was born 'into a family of modest means in Medelín, in the department of Antioquia, Colombia, on 19 April 1932. His father a travelling salesman, crisscrossed the region's rugged paths on donkeyback; he would die of a sudden heart attack when Fernando was aged only two. This would leave the son with a faceless absence, a far-off image of sadness and bereavement in company of his mother and two brothers.

Famous today for its drug dealers, Medelín of former times was but a provincial little town hemmed in by the surrounding mountains. Life here was on the straight and narrow, in the long shadow of the Church. The young Fernando attended a secondary school run by Jesuits, who imposed strict discipline. Out of boredom, Fernando began drawing a lot and, in the natural course of events, then went on to painting. He took great interest in bullfights which, at the age of thirteen, became his first source of artistic inspiration. Soon he turned into an ardent aficionado, whose enthusiasm would last a lifetime. Indeed, when famous, he would spend two years painting almost nothing but bullfights. At this early age, however, he was happy to sell his watercolors of bullfights at five pesos a piece, by the arena entrance gates.

(1) La manière de Fernando Botero, presentation essay for the exhibition at the Claude Bernard Gallery in 1978, Paris.

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 lifes 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 profane. Like Rubens, Botero is an individual whose intense engagement with the world around him enriches his perceptions, heightens his discernment of both the material and spiritual nature of specific things, places and people. Also in the manner of Rubens, Botero celebrates the palpable, quantifiable tangibilities of earthly existence without slighting more ethereal values.

Rubens was a diplomat by both profession and character. Polished in manner and eloquent in his words, he moved easily within many realms of Baroque society in his native Flanders as well as in Italy, England, France and Spain. Botero is similarly peripatetic and likewise gifted in his comprehension of the wide variety of human values and emotions. He is, in both his personality and his art, as comfortable with bullfighters as with presidents, with nuns as with socialites. His images of this range of types presents his audiences with a panoramic view of the noble and the ignoble of modern society on both sides of the Atlantic, above as well as below the Equator.

The term "Botero" has become something of a generic word. In the popular conception, a "Botero" is a man or a woman - or any other animate or inanimate thing - possessed of large, rounded proportions. There are "Botero forks" and "Botero cats" just as there are "Botero women" or "Botero children". For many, the concept of "Botero" represents a celebration of sensuality or a reveling in voluptuousness. However, through international exhibitions along some of the most famous streets of the world's largest cities, his paintings, drawings and monumental sculptures have become so well known that their often complex meanings, in many cases l have become all but obscured.While Botero's art is tangibly present as an indispensable part of popular visual culture in the Western imagination, its deeper references and the processes of its creation have become camouflaged by both its highly visible public profile and its commercial appropriation.The art of Botero must be read on a variety of planes. The levels of meaning unfold when scrutinized under the lens of both his historical development and the intentions of the messages that his paintings, drawings and sculptures convey

Botero's career developed out of a virtual void of art historical tradition. The semi- isolated cities and towns of central Colombia had little contact with the larger world of ''culture'' in its conventional contexts when the artist was developing his talent in the 1940s and early 1950s. In another context, however, Botero availed himself of artistic modes distinct from the modernity of the major urban cultural centers of South America at this time. His observation of the colonial images, both painted and sculpted, in the churches of his youth, served as a rich spring that fed the imagination of a child already endowed with a craving to make art.The religious paintings and sculptures of provincial chapels or home altars naive expressions of religiosity according to standard classifications and hierarchies of art, but central to the spiritual nourishment of the populace throughout the centuries in urban and rural Latin America - are key to understanding the beginnings of the aesthetic of Botero, Later he would excavate his memories of such things, re-encountering and reinventing them in his studio, giving new life to the strong colors, exaggerated forms and expressive faces of the people and things that he had observed in the religious art and the popular commercial prints that were a natural part of his life as a child and a young man in Medellín.The intersection of the popular and ''high'' in art has been critically important to the various discourses of modernity, from the first decades of the twentieth century onward. Botero has engaged in these dialogues between the popular and the elevated, discovering in both aspects that would form critical components of his distinct form of expression.
Fernando Botero's distinctive style of smooth inflated shapes with unexpected shifts in scale is today instantly recognizable. It reflects the artist's constant search to give volume presence and reality. The parameters of proportion in his world are innovative and almost always surprising. Appropriating themes from all of art history-- from the Middle Ages, the Italian quattrocento, and Latin American colonial art to the modern trends of the 20th century--Botero transforms them to his own particular style.

Born in 1932 in Medellin, Colombia, Botero became interested in painting at an early age. His artistic precocity was evident in an illustrated article he contributed to the Medellin newspaper El Colombiano when he was seventeen. Titled Picasso and the Nonconformity of Art it revealed his avant-garde thinking about modern art. Botero moved to Bogotá in 1951 and held his first one-man exhibition there at the Leo Matiz Gallery. The following year, at the age of twenty, he was awarded a Second Prize at the National Salon in Bogota.

With the money he earned from the Salon award and his exhibitions, Botero traveled to Spain, France and Italy to study the work of the old masters. In Madrid, he visited El Prado Museum daily while studying at the San Fernando Academy. In Florence, he studied at the Academy of San Marcos and was profoundly influenced by the works of Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello and Andrea del Castagno.

It was during a brief stay in Mexico that Botero produced Still Life with Mandolin (1956), the first work in which "puffed-up" form makes a definite appearance. Two years later he was awarded a First Prize at the National Salon in Bogota for his Bridal Chamber: Homage to Mantegna, a work inspired in Mantegna's 1474 frescoes for the Ducal Palace in Mantua.

Botero later did a second version on this theme, which is now in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum. Botero moved to New York in 1960 and the following year the Museum of Modern Art of New York acquired his painting Mona Lisa, Age Twelve for its collection. During this period he experimented briefly with a gestural brushstroke, which Botero called his flirtation with the School of New York. Over the next years Botero continued to explore the manipulation of form for aesthetic effect, gradually eliminating all traces of brushwork and texture, opting instead for smooth inflated shapes.

His continuing attraction to the Colombia of his youth is reflected in paintings rooted in small town Colombian life--middle-class family groups, heads of state, prelates, madonnas, military men, prostitutes and opulent still lifes with exotic fruit. In 1973 Botero left New York for Paris and began to produce sculpture, although without giving up painting. His work in a three-dimensional art was a natural progression for an artist singularly dedicated to expressing volume and mass.

It is not the semblance of volume, however, but volume itself, a tangible volume, that the medium of sculpture offers. His vision involves the conviction that monumentality is not so much a question of size as it is of proportion. It is a search for the heroic in art, an attribute that Botero first discovered as a student in Florence. Today Fernando Botero divides his time between Paris, New York and Tuscany. His paintings, sculptures, and drawings are exhibited and represented in museum collections throughout the world.

Las pinturas de BOTERO
Donación Botero
Biography (English version)

Frases y Citas BOTERO