Fernando Botero


Born in 1932 in Medellin, Columbia, Botero became interested in painting at an early age.  When he was twelve, his uncle, an aficionado of bullfighting, enrolled him in a school for toreros which he attended for two years.  The preferred themes of his first drawings were inspired by the world of bullfighting. 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 revealed his avant- garde thinking about modern art.  Botero moved to Bogota in 1951 and held his first one-man exhibition at the Leo Matiz Gallery.  The following year, at the age of twenty, with the painting "One the Coast "(1952) , he was awarded a Second Prize at the IX Exhibition of Columbian Artists at the National Salon in  Bogota.

With the prize money he earned from the Salon and his exhibitions, he departed for Europe. In Spain, he enrolled at the Academia San Fernando in Madrid where he visited El Prado Museum daily. His principal influences during this period were Goya, Velasquez, Titian, and Tintoretto.  The following year he departed for Paris and moved into a small apartment on the Place des Vosges. Deeply disillusioned by the French avant-garde, Botero spent all his time at the Louvre studying the old Masters.

It was during a brief stay in Mexico that Botero produced Still Life with Mandolin (1956), which marked the first appearance of his distinctive rounded style.  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 frescos for the Ducal Palace in Mantua. A second version of this theme by Botero 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 acquired his painting" Mona Lisa, Age Twelve" for its New York collection.  Botero left New York City for Paris in 1973,  continuing to explore the manipulation of form for aesthetic effect, gradually eliminating all traces of brushwork and texture, opting instead for smooth inflated shapes. He continues to paint but Botero's work in a three dimensional art form naturally progressed to sculpture.

While his work included still life and landscapes, Botero favors situational portraiture. Drawing on his childhood experiences in Columbia, Botero portrays people from all walks of life in all types of situations.  His signature large, corpulent figures can be viewed as political commentary of satire. Botero himself notes that as an artist, he is attracted to certain forms without exactly knowing why.  His vision involves the conviction that monumentally is not so much a question of size as it is of proportion.  He is an abstract artist in the most fundamental sense of the word, using what colors, shapes, and proportions based on intuitive aesthetic thinking.  Today Fernando Botero divides his time between Paris, New York, and Pietra Santa, Italy.  His paintings, sculptures, and drawings are exhibited and represented in museum collections throughout the world.