Maria de Juan

Goodbay to Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero is the most international Colombian artist, creator of very fat, voluptuous and capricious figures. He died in 2023 leaving a legacy for posterity, with thousands of his unmistakable storybook characters.

Botero‘s style is unique. You may like his paintings and sculptures or not, but his work is recognisable at first sight. There is even the term “boterismo”. Because the painter created a unique style of shapes, volume, texture and distortion. His art went around the world and fetched record prices at auction.

fernando botero y sofia

Fernando Botero was a Colombian artist, painter, sculptor and figurative draftsman. He is recognised for his characters with round and plump shapes, grating obesity, which became an emblem of Colombian art.

Botero was born in Medellín, Colombia (1932), son of a modest merchant, David, and Flora. He had three brothers. He wanted to be a bullfighter and spent his childhood in a bullfighting school. He left the world of bullfighting, although he would return to it years later, in his paintings.

fernando botero still life watermelon

His artistic life took flight at the age of 14 when he decided to dedicate himself to art. His mother supported him in his determination, without guaranteeing him the money for his studies.

I was born different. I come from a small city in Colombia. I was not born in New York, London or Paris.

The first exhibition of him was the Exhibition of Antioquian Painters (1948). He had his first solo exhibition
at Galeria Leo Mati in Bogotá. His oil painting “Frente al mar” won a prize at the Salon Nacional de Artistas.

The pleasure was such that I felt that at the age of 18 I left school to dedicate myself entirely to painting. I have been an artist since then. “I haven’t done anything else.

He went to Madrid to study at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts. Botero traveled for 2 years through France and Italy. In Florence he learned the technique of fresco painting at the Academia San Marcos. In Mexico he studied the work of Diego Rivera and Clemente Orozco.

fernando botero mujer a caballo

The artist was married three times, the first with Gloria Zea, with whom he had three children: Fernando, Lina and Juan Carlos. Returning to Bogotá, he was appointed professor of Art at Universidad Nacional. He divorced and traveled to New York, where he took up residence. There he began to experiment with the volume of objects and characters in his paintings.

His original voluptuous creations attracted the attention of art critics. In a short time, he created hundreds of drawings and 1,000 paintings.

Botero married Cecilia Zambrano and they had their son, Pedro, who died prematurely, at only 4 years old. They were on vacation in Spain, traveling from Seville to Córdoba. In the accident, the child died.

fernando botero domador

Botero grieved the death of his youngest son, leaving him immersed in deep sadness. He locked himself in New York to draw hundreds of drawings of his son until he managed to make a large painting, “Pedrito on horseback.” Later he abandoned painting for a long period and divorced his wife Cecilia.

He expressed his pain in the portrait of the child. To honor him, she donated 16 works to the Museo de Antioquía, in Medellín, his hometown. There is the “Pedrito Botero Room”.

After abandoning painting, he began to experiment with sculpture, which brought him great success. The preferred materials for his enormous three- dimensional figures were bronze, marble and cast resin.

In 1978 Botero returned to painting and since then he alternated both arts. Botero painted morning and night, in absolute silence, because he did not allow anything to distract him.

fernando botero pensamiento

Fernando Botero was extremely disciplined. He worked every day of every year. For him, there were no rest dates, no holidays, no weekends. At Christmas he painted. On his birthday he painted. On New Year’s he painted.

He dearly loved the land where he was born. He made several donations to the Museo de Antioquia (Medellín). Currently, it shows his great retrospective exhibition. In 2002 he donated 23 outdoor works to Plaza de las Esculturas.

fernando botero obispo

Botero also presented volumetric monumental sculptures in the streets and squares of Monte Carlo (Monaco) and on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. He was the first foreign artist to exhibit outdoors.

In 1995 his bronze sculpture “Bird”, weighing 1.8 tons, was dynamited in a park in Medellín, causing the death of 22 people.

fernando botero mujer

His last wife was the Greek, Sophia Vari, also sculptor. Curiously, she created very stylised figures that contrast with those of her husband. They shared a sculptural passion. Sophia died in 2023, leaving him briefly widowed.

The international Colombian died at 91, in September 2023 at his home in Monte Carlo (Monaco), surrounded by his children and grandchildren, just four months after the departure of the great love of his life.

fernando botero mona lisa

In his works, bullfighters with tight pants, sexy women, voluminous prostitutes, dapper peasants, priests from another era, all colourful, are immortalised.

The taste for Botero‘s works led him to establish himself as one of the favourite artists of the Latin American art market, in the last years of his life.

fernando botero arbol

In 2011, in New York, Sotheby‘s sold “Family” for 1.4 million dollars and Christie‘s sold his monumental sculpture “Dancers” for 1.76 million. But economic success did not transform his personality. He always stood out for his simplicity and sincerity.

He obtained recognitions such as the International Sculpture Prize at the Sao Paulo Biennial and the Premio Principe de Asturias for the Arts.

fernando botero autoretrato

Like the Renaissance masters, he was a painter, sculptor, draftsman and watercolorist. Botero is one of the most prolific creators of the 20th century.

Botero, like Picasso, is like a locomotive that works incessantly, tirelessly searching for new forms of expression, deep down, looking for a way to become immortal.

Botero used to avoid death, which he mocked in his paintings, like when he immortalised his son Pedrito in posthumous portraits.

fernando botero pedrito

I don’t want to be remembered at all, I want to stay alive forever.

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