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Fernando Botero… He leaves behind huge, strange shapes that express the hurt of humanity.

Thanks to his amazing paintings and sculptures, the Colombian artist Fernando Botero became one of the most famous artists in the world, and he is unique in a special artistic style, which he included in his imagination with grand, strange forms, generals, bishops. Prostitutes, housewives and other characters.

Visitors look at the painting “Family” by artist Botero at the Botero Museum in Bogotá (AFP)

A few days ago, the artist, whose works have always stirred controversy, died of pneumonia in a hospital in Monaco at the age of 91. Colombian President Gustavo Pedro announced the news of his death earlier on social media.

In his youth, Botero developed his own instantly recognizable style and soon achieved significant commercial success. He was once quoted as saying: “It’s true that I work in a profession where people generally want to starve, but I was forced to do it and I never thought about the consequences.”

Large, round shapes

Botero has long been known for large, circular paintings depicting middle-class life, brothels, clergy, peasants, baskets of plump fruit, and the brutal consequences of violence.

Botero with his paintings in 2003 (Getty)

Fernando Botero Angulo was born on April 19, 1932 in Medellin, Colombia. His father died when he was a child, so his uncle enrolled him in a Jesuit high school, encouraged his artistic interests, and supported him for two years to become a bullfighter, which is where some of his earliest bullfighting scenes appear. Work, and he was interested in it all his life. After publishing an essay titled “Pablo Picasso and Nonconformity in Art,” Botero was expelled from his Jesuit school for expressing views described as “irreligious” at the time.

In his early years, Botero was influenced by Cubism, Mexican murals, and the work of Alberto Vargas, whose painting entitled “The Vargas Girl” was published in the American men’s magazine “Esquire”.

His first exhibition

As a teenager, he began publishing his drawings in the local newspaper and later worked in interior design. In 1951, he moved to the capital Bogotá, where after his first solo exhibition, he moved to Paris, where he spent several years, as well as to Florence, Italy.

“Mona Lisa at Twelve” exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961 (New York Times)

In 1961, Dorothy Miller, the curator of New York museums, purchased a painting of Potero’s work entitled “Mona Lisa at the Age of Twelve” for the Museum of Modern Art. This choice was surprising at the time, as the Abstract Expressionist school was prevalent. So Botero’s painting depicted a woman with chubby cheeks that was unfamiliar to the site, and was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when the original Mona Lisa painting was on display.

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Fame and Criticism

The Museum of Modern Art’s interest in Botero’s work helped put him on the path to fame, and in 1979, he gained attention in a retrospective exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Washington Sculpture Garden. Oscillates between caricature and pathos.

Botero once quoted: “Art can idealize women, but in reality they are ugly, as we see in the photographs in Playboy magazine,” and added: “The most beautiful women in art, like the Mona Lisa, are actually ugly. , and there “Whoever sees ugliness in my works, they see reality. They reflect as such.”

Botero’s painting “X-Photo” is on display at the Antioquia Museum in Medellin, Colombia (EPA).

A critical essay published in the margins of the “Hirshhorn” exhibit was titled “Botero, Washington’s One Hundred Dollars for His Painting,” reflecting the opinion of some critics that the Colombian artist’s work was vulgar and unvibrant. Trends in Contemporary Art. He then angrily responded: “Critics have been writing angrily about me all my life.”

In another article published in the London Evening Standard in 2009, arts writer Godfrey Parker marveled, “Wow! Do they hate him?” He explained: “The high priests of contemporary art in London and New York can’t stand him because they can’t stand what he has to offer, because he challenges everything they believe. And they hate him because he is rich. He has been a huge commercial success and it is easy to see what he paints with the eyes. “Because he is very popular among the common people.”

His personal life

After fathering three children, Fernando, Lina, and Juan Carlos, he separated in 1960 from his first wife, Gloria Gia, who became Colombia’s minister of culture, and spent much of the next decade and a half in New York. Zia died in 2019, after having been married twice, first to Cecilia Zambrano and then in 1978 to the Greek painter and sculptor Sophia Vari, who died last May.

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Artist and sculptor Botero’s “Capitan” painting at the Botero Museum in Bogotá, Colombia (EPA)

Until his death, Botero continued to live with his three children from his first marriage, as well as his brother Rodrigo and his grandchildren. The Colombian artist experienced two trials in his family life: the first in 1970 when his son died. In the second marriage, five-year-old Pedro was killed in a car accident. He was also injured, and his son Fernando Botero Zia, who rose to become a politician and Minister of Defense in Colombia, was sentenced. Convicted in a corruption case and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Fernando Botero next to one of his sculptures in the church of Santo Agostino in Pietrasanta, Tuscany (AFP)

His tendency towards sculpture

During the 1970s, Botero’s interest in external form and appearance led him to take up sculpture; His sculptures, many of them depicting large, bulky, eccentric men, catapulted him to a new level of public interest in his work as major cities demanded that his sculptures be placed on major thoroughfares and medians, including New York City. Park Avenue in 1993. Many of his works are also on permanent display in unusual locations such as the Deutsche Financial Center (formerly the Time Warner Center) in New York and “The Botero” lounge at the Grand Wailea Resort in Hawaii. Bar.”

Statue of “Eve” in the lobby of what used to be Time Warner Center in Manhattan (AP).

Botero was an avid art collector, and in 2000 he donated part of his collection to a museum in his native Medellin, and some of his works offer interpretations of masterpieces by artists such as Caravaggio, Titian and Van Gogh.

Botero usually painted men of authority with a touch of sarcasm or criticism, and although they may appear unadorned and exaggerated in scale, the Colombian artist was careful to imbue them with dignity.

Jesus was the subject of many sentimental works by Botero, who also painted portraits by Delacroix, Ingres and Giacometti, and paintings of authority such as “The Cardinal”, “The English Ambassador” and “The First Lady”. as well as two paintings he painted in 1987 and 1989 titled “The President” and reflected a level of sympathy for their characters.

Botero “inside the culture train” during a press conference for the “Fernando Botero: The Circus” exhibition in Medellin (Reuters)

However, many of the people in his paintings were morbidly obese, with flesh bursting from their uniforms and dresses and the pieces could not cover the exaggerated parts of their bodies, but he often insisted that he never referred to the fat. , instead he wanted to glorify the sensuality of life, Pietro once said: “I studied the works of Giotto and all the other Italian masters and was inspired by their sense of scale, and as everything seems exaggerated in modern art, my large figures were also exaggerated.”

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Abu Ghraib prison

Botero and his wife Fari had two homes, one in Paris and the other in Pietrasanta, Italy, where he organized an exhibition in 2012 on the occasion of his eightieth birthday.

Some who saw Botero’s art as fun and light-hearted were surprised when, in 2005, he produced a series of paintings based on photographs of mistreated prisoners at the US Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

From his series of paintings of prisoners being tortured at Abu Ghraib prison (Getty)

Pottero said of the paintings: “These works are the result of my dissatisfaction with these violations in Iraq and other parts of the world.”

New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote at the time that the Abu Ghraib paintings “restore the dignity and humanity of the prisoners without minimizing their suffering or injustice.” Novelist and critic Erica Jung also described the drawings as “amazing”. They sparked controversy and a reason for “a thorough review of everything we previously thought about Botero’s work”.

Jung wrote: “When we think of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ has has has has has been shown, most of us think of the stable men who appear in his works, their fatness, their fashionable headdresses, their cigarettes and their luxury. Images from a political perspective until I saw his series of paintings about the Abu Ghraib prison.” “Now, I see all of Botero’s work as a record of the brutality of the haves against the have-nots,” he added.

Botero dabbled in political matters, particularly the Colombian drug trade, but later returned to quiet work. After the Abu Ghraib series, Botero rediscovered his longtime love of static portraits, producing a series of circus photographs; In 2010, he said: “After all this time, I always go back to the simple things.”

Nadia Barnett
Nadia Barnett
"Award-winning beer geek. Extreme coffeeaholic. Introvert. Avid travel specialist. Hipster-friendly communicator."

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