Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero – The Artist of Voluptuous Forms

One of the World’s Wealthiest Artists

Featured Artists Article by Renée Phillips

Fernando Botero is an internationally renowned modern master whose art work is characterized by exaggerated forms and disproportionate volume.

The artist was born in Colombia in 1932. He attended a matador school for several years in his youth, and then left the bull ring to pursue an artistic career.

He had his first exhibition at the age of 16 years old and his first one-man show two years later in Bogota. His artistic idols included Diego Rivera, Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez.

Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero, The Street, 2013, oil on canvas, 26-3⁄4″ x 28″. Courtesy of Galerie Gmurzynska.

Fernando Botero Has Achieved Wealth and Major Museum Status

Throughout the 1950s, Fernando Botero began experimenting with proportion and size. After he moved to New York City in 1960 he began developing his trademark style.

He is reported as one of the world’s wealthiest artists. His paintings and sculptures sell for millions of dollars and are in the collections of more than 50 museums. In the last five years, he has had exhibitions at museums and galleries in Hungary, Turkey, Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Mexico, England, Portugal, and the United States.

Botero spends much of the year in Monaco, but he also has homes in Paris and Colombia, Pietrasanta, Italy, and on the island of Evia, off the coast of Greece.

Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero, Seated Woman, Marlborough Gallery

What is Fernando Botero Trying to Express?

When I first became acquainted with his art I was simultaneously appalled and intrigued. Questions whirled through my mind. I couldn’t help but wonder, was he insulting people who suffered from obesity? Was he making a statement about gluttony, materialism, and over indulgence? Is he poking jabs at aristocracy?

I didn’t know whether to love his art or hate it. I did know, that as I examined his art more closely, I began to see beyond my first impression. My curiosity and fascination began to increase.

Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero, Entombment of Christ, / Entierro de Cristo, 2010, oil on canvas, 59″ x 79 7/8″

He Appropriates Themes From Art History with A Sense of Drama

His sense of drama and theatrical flair is compelling, especially noticeable in the painting “Entombment of Christ”. The subjects’ expressions, bright colors, lighting and theatrical stage props add dimension.

Botero appropriates themes from various times in art history — from the Middle Ages, the Italian quattrocento, and Latin American colonial art to the modern trends of the 21st century.

There is something aesthetically alluring about sensuous, fleshy, round forms. Botero portrays loving couples and nudes proudly displaying their swelling bodies. He presents portraits and self-portraits of figures with a balloon like quality.

Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero, Dancers, 2011. Bronze, 53″ x 35-1/2″ x 21-1/2″. Edition of 6.

He Has A Penchant For Playing With the Concept of Volume

“Sculptures permit me to create real volume… One can touch the forms, one can give them smoothness, the sensuality that one wants.” ~ Fernando Botero

Regardless how many round, bloated humans and animals Botero has painted and sculpted, it has been said many times that it is a common misconception of ours, that Botero is trying to comment on how society views the human figure. Instead, he implies, he simply  has a penchant for playing with scale, an activity that profusely delights many artists.

As he transforms them to his own particular style I ask, is he celebrating grandiosity, plentitude and the beauty of form in a positive manner? How does he compare with other artists such as the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens?

Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero, Society Lady, 2011, oil on canvas, 75.2″ x 41.4″. Courtesy of Galerie Gmurzynska.

Is There More Beneath These Fleshy Surfaces?

“Man needs music, literature, and painting – all those oases of perfection that make up art – to compensate for the rudeness and materialism of life.” ~ Fernando Botero

Botero has had his share of criticism however he has also been praised for his homage to Renaissance classicism “with a touch of social commentary and wit.”

So, I contemplate this: Is Botero’s art a commentary about gluttony, materialism, and over indulgence? Is he poking jabs at aristocracy? If so, this wouldn’t be the first time an artist took such a stand.

Should we invite his art to serve as a catalyst for a discussion about body image, especially when obesity, discrimination, nutrition and health, and over-indulgence are such hot topics?

If any of these concepts play a role in Botero’s artistic process, we may begin to understand his inimitable irony, humor, and ingenuity. Does this quote offer a glimpse into his mind?

Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero, Woman on a Horse, outside Christie’s, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY.

Botero’s Sculptures As Public Art

His large bronze sculptures are visible in public spots throughout the world. A large collection is on Museum Island in Berlin.

Several of his outdoor sculptures are on display as public art throughout New York City. You can find sculptures of his “Adam” and “Eve” greeting shoppers at each escalator at the mall at Time Warner Center and “Woman on a Horse” displayed outside Christie’s at Rockefeller Center.

Fernando Botero at Marlborough Gallery

When I think of Botero, I immediately recall the extraordinary exhibitions I’ve seen at the voluminous 10,000 square foot Marlborough Gallery, 40 West 57th Street, New York, NY. There is also a beautiful outdoor sculpture terrace on the premises.

Marlborough Gallery is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading modern and contemporary art dealers. In addition to Botero the gallery represents Magdalena Abakanowicz, Claudio Bravo, Richard Estes, Red Grooms, and Tom Otterness. It also represents a new generation of artists and programs at Marlborough Chelsea.

Botero’s Mother Thought He Would Die of Hunger

While Botero was exhibiting at Marlborough in January, 2014, Milton Estrow, Editor and Publisher of ARTnews magazine, did an interview with him titled ‘Botero: You Can’t Be Liked By Everybody’. In the article Botero is quoted as saying, “My father was a traveling salesman. He died when I was five. He sold clothes and other things and he traveled on a mule. My mother was a seamstress. When I told my mother that I wanted to be an artist, she said, ‘You’re going to die of hunger.’”

How very wrong his mother turned out to be!
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