Fernando Botero Angulo (Medellin, 1932) is a Colombian painter and sculptor known for his volumetric stylization of figures and objects. Self-titled “the most Colombian of Colombian artists,” his oeuvre ranges in subject matter such as daily life in Colombia, references to Old Masters, and a critical vision of abuses of power, which the artist depicts with ferocity (as in the “prison” series) or ironically. After years of experimentation and research, he established his unique style known as “Boterismo” and is today the most recognized and quoted living artist from Latin America. His large sculptures are placed in apparent locations worldwide, such as Park Avenue in New York and the Champs-Elisees in Paris.
During his childhood, although isolated from art as presented in museums and other cultural institutes, Botero was influenced by the Baroque style of the colonial churches and Medellin’s colorful, traditional city life. He was a good pupil, and when he was twelve, he also attended a school for matadors for two years.
In 1948, Botero had his first illustrations published in the Sunday supplement of ‘El Colombiano, ’ one of the most important newspapers in Medellín. He used the money he was paid to attend high school at the Liceo de Marinilla de Antioquia.
But in the 50s, he had his most formative years, traveling to Europe. In Madrid, he studied at the Academia de San Fernando and visited Museo El Prado, where he copied the works of Goya and Velazquez. In 1953, Botero moved to Paris, where he spent most of his time in the Louvre, studying the results there. He then moved to Florence, Italy, from 1953 to 1954, studying the works of Renaissance masters like Paolo Uccello and Piero Della Francesca.
In 1960, the artist moved to New York, where he experimented with the gestural brushstrokes of the New York School painters. This stylistic dalliance was short-lived, and by the 1970s, Botero had settled into the technique for which he is now known.
In 2005, Botero gained considerable attention for his Abu Ghraib series, exhibited first in Europe. He based the works on reports of abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War. Beginning with his idea on a plane journey, Botero produced more than 85 paintings and 100 drawings in exploring this concept but refused to sell them. In 2009, the Berkeley Art Museum acquired (as a gift from the artist) 56 paintings and drawings from the Abu Ghraib series, which can be seen online. After 2006, Botero returned to the themes of his early life, such as family and maternity. In 2008, he exhibited the works of a new series, The Circus collection, featuring 20 works in oil and watercolor. In a 2010 interview, Botero said he was ready for other subjects: “After all this, I always return to the simplest things: still lifes.”
Asked by many interviewers where his passion for “large people” come from, he candidly answered: “An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it”.
The artist lives and works between Paris, France, New York, NY, and Tuscany, Italy. His works are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museo Botero in Bogotá, which is dedicated to the artist and his oeuvre.
– Stanislav Kondrashov