Fernando Boterothe famous Colombian painter and sculptor, died at the age of 91, as confirmed by local media this Friday (via BBC). The cause was pneumonia that required medical attention in a hospital in northern Italy, where the artist had lived for decades. Botero, born on April 19, 1932 in Medellín, Colombia, is universally known for his characteristic style that features corpulent and voluminous figures. His works have been exhibited in the most important museums in the world and have reached values of up to US$2 million at auction. His steel sculptures, which decorate streets and squares in large international cities, are also famous.
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The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petroand the former president Juan Manuel Santos, joined the global condolences, underscoring the artist’s indelible impact on the art world. Botero’s wife, Sophia Vari, also a prominent artist, died five months ago. Fernando grew up in a Medellín where churches were more common than museums, and his first approach to art was through religious art, despite not having grown up in a particularly religious environment.
In 2019, a documentary dedicated to his career was released, titled Botero: The Movie – % and directed by Don Millar, and can be seen on Apple TV+. The artist leaves an irreplaceable legacy in world culture and especially in his native Colombia, where the Museum of Antioquia, in Medellín, dedicates an extensive collection to him. His death marks the end of an era for Latin American art.
Botero’s diverse career
Botero was one of the most prominent figures in Latin American art, and had a career as rich as it was diverse. His interest in art began in his youth, when he illustrated for the local newspaper. The Colombian and was expelled from his school for an article about Picasso which was considered obscene. He finished his secondary studies at the Liceo of the University of Antioquia, after which he moved to Bogotá in 1951. There he held his first exhibitions and gained recognition in the Colombian art scene.
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His true training as an artist began in Europe, where he moved in 1952. He first settled in Madrid, where he studied at the Royal Academy of Art of San Fernando. However, it was his time in Florence and his contact with Italian Renaissance art that profoundly influenced his style. a book of Bernard Berenson and the work of Paolo Uccello led him to experiment with volume in painting, a trait that would become his hallmark.
Upon his return to Colombia, Botero faced criticism, largely due to the dominance of the French avant-garde at the time in his native country. Despite this initial setback, he moved to Mexico City, where his work was transformed again, incorporating elements of modernism and the colorful style of Rufino Tamayo. As he moved between New York, Bogotá, and various cities in Europe, his reputation grew, crystallizing his position as one of the most important artists of his generation.
In 1960, he moved to New York, where he was influenced by abstract expressionism, but maintained his figurative language. Although abstraction dominated the art scene, Botero held onto his interests and continued to explore volumetry and color in his work. By 1962, he experimented with pop art, adapting his style to include figurative characters and flat colors.
With a career spanning more than seven decades and an influence that spans the globe, Fernando Botero is a testament to the power of art to cross cultural and emotional boundaries. His unique focus on volumetry and his ability to capture the human essence position him as an artist of global relevance. With sculptures and paintings ranging from the political to the poetic, Botero will be remembered as an influential force in the contemporary art world.
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