Painter, drawer and sculptor, Fernando Botero (Medellín, Colombia, 1932) is the most highly acclaimed South American artist at work today. Comprising 80 works from the last 60 years, Fernando Botero: Celebration is set to be one of the most important anthologies of his art career to date. Nearly 250,000 visitors saw a larger version of the exhibition that closed on 10 June at Mexico’s Palace of Fine Arts.
Fernando Botero began his professional career in 1948, working as an illustrator for the El Colombiano newspaper in his hometown. Three years later he moved to Bogotá, where he had his first one-man show. Largely self-taught, in 1952 he trained at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, paying regular visits to the Prado.
Over the next few years he travelled around France and Italy: In Florence he was particularly attracted by painting in fresco. He returned to Bogotá in 1955, making a trip to Mexico shortly afterwards. There he discovered the Mexican mural art of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, and the renovation involved in the art of Rufino Tamayo and José Luis Cuevas.
Gradually these influences faded, as Botero began to develop a personal style that exalted volume and a sort of teasing, life-affirming vitalism featuring motifs closely linked to the human condition. These themes included traditional life in Colombia, personalities from history, the still life, bourgeois life, the circus and bullfights. In 1960 he settled in New York and began a series of paintings devoted to the great masters, including Leonardo, Rubens and Velázquez.
Figures deliberately out of proportion and on a monumental scale also feature in his sculptures of people and animals, which he started around 1973, the year he left New York for Paris. From here on, he exhibited regularly, his paintings and sculptures winning international acclaim. Highpoints include the famous exhibitions of his huge sculptures in the Champs Elysées in Paris in 1992 and, the following year, in New York, Buenos Aires and Madrid.
Curated by Lina Botero, with extensive cooperation from the artist himself, this theme-based show provides a broad overview of Botero’s career. Most of the works on display come from the artist’s private collection and include a host of vigorous compositions, opulent forms and exuberant colours that together make a vibrant, zestful celebration of Botero’s highly personal vision.