The renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who was best known for his distinctive full-bodied figures, passed away last week in Monaco at the age of 91.
The Colombian artist maintained throughout his career that his work served as a kind of protest against centuries of colonization of Latin America. He believed in the independence of art as a catalyst for broader independence in thought, stance, and expression.
Born in Medellín, Colombia, in 1932, Botero had limited exposure to art during his childhood. Until he started doing watercolors and sketches, Botero was not completely aware of his artistic talent. With the aid of a scholarship, he was able to go to Europe and study fresco-making and art history, which finally inspired him to develop a unique style that was completely lacking in Colombia.
In 1960, he ventured to New York, where his work stood apart from the prevailing Pop Art movement.
His early works such as “The Presidential Family” and “Dancing in Colombia,” offered glimpses into Colombian society and traditions, imbued with a touch of introspection.
Botero’s distinctive style, characterized by curvaceous forms, plump arms, ample waistlines, and generous thighs, became iconic and extended to sculpture. These voluptuous figures, reminiscent of traditional female nudes, and interpretations of well-known Spanish art, were situated in public spaces, casting a commanding presence over onlookers.
Initially, critics questioned the satirical nature of Botero’s creations, given the ambiguity of his political commentary. However, it became clear over time that his work carried significant political weight. His art evolved to address more explicit political themes, including Colombia’s conflict with guerrilla groups and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Botero felt a profound responsibility to confront these harsh realities as an artist.
Many of Botero’s works are housed in U.S. museums, yet he also made generous donations of numerous pieces to the Botero Museum in Bogotá and the Museo de Antioquia in 2000.
Featured Image: Fernando Botero, Circus People with Elephant (2007). Courtesy of Pera Museum