Biography Fernando Botero

“”When Colombian children go to church they see all these Madonnas, so clean and perfect. In South America china-like perfection is very much a part of the ideal toilet of beauty. So, in contrast to Europe or North America, you connect the notions of art and beauty at a very early age. I grew up with the idea that art is beauty. All my life I’ve been trying to produce art that is beautiful to discover all the elements that go to make up visual perfection. When you come from my background you can’t be spoilt by beauty, because you’ve never really seen it. If you’re born in Paris, say, you can see art everywhere, so by the time you come to create art yourself you’re spoilt – you’re tired of beauty as such and want to do something else. With me it was quite different. I wasn’t tired of beauty; I was hungering for it.”
– Fernando Botero

After training as a matador for two years, Fernando Botero (born April 19, 1932) fell in love with painting instead. He is a neo-figurative Colombian artist, self-titled “the most Colombian of Colombian artists.” He strives in all his work to capture an essential part of himself and his subjects through colour and form.

Source: Oxford University Press

Colombian painter and sculptor. After attending a Jesuit school in Medellín he was sent to a school for matadors in 1944 for two years. He first exhibited in 1948 in Medellín with other artists from the region and provided illustrations for the Sunday supplement of the daily paper El Colombiano at this time. His discovery of the works of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco inspired paintings such as Woman Crying (1949; artist’s priv. col., see 1979 exh. cat., p. 25). After studying at the San José high school in Marinilla, near Medellín, from 1949 to 1950 and then working as a set designer, he moved to Bogotá in 1951. A few months after his arrival he had his first one-man show there at the Galería Leo Matiz in 1951, at which time he was working under the influence of Gauguin and Picasso’s work of the ‘blue’ and ‘rose’ periods. In 1952 Botero travelled with a group of artists to Barcelona, where he stayed briefly before moving to Madrid. From 1952 to 1953 he studied at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, although he was more interested in the paintings by Goya and Velázquez in the Prado. In 1953 he moved to Paris, where he lost his earlier fascination with the modern French masters and spent most of his time in the Louvre. He then travelled to Florence, where he stayed from 1953 to 1954 studying the works of Renaissance masters such as Giotto, Uccello and Piero della Francesca.

Botero first visited the USA in 1957, buying a studio in New York in 1960. A number of works executed between 1959 and 1961, such as Mona Lisa, Age Twelve (1961; New York, MOMA), though figurative, showed the influence of Abstract Expressionism through the energetic handling of the paint. After a long period of development under the influence of various styles and artists, by about 1964 Botero had arrived at his mature style, characterized by the use of rotund figures and inflated forms, as in the Presidential Family (1967; New York, MOMA), in which he made allusion to the official portraits of Goya and Velázquez. Throughout his career Botero often made reference to past masters, sometimes to the point of caricature.

In 1973 Botero moved his studio from New York to Paris and began making sculptures. He concentrated exclusively on these between 1976 and 1977, extending his painting style and principles into three dimensions in works such as Big Hand (1976–7; Washington, DC, Hirshhorn), which was inspired by a detail of the Victory of Samothrace (Paris, Louvre). His paintings of the 1970s, such as the House of Raquel Vega (1975; Vienna, Mus. 20. Jhts), were a continuation of his mature style of the 1960s. In the 1980s he turned to subjects taken from bullfighting, for example in Bull (1987; priv. col., see 1987 exh. cat., pl. 13). One of his largest public sculptures in bronze, Broadgate Venus (London, Exchange Square), was unveiled in 1990.