Botero turns 85! Ten facts about the most famous artist in Latin America
Today, Fernando Botero, the Colombian painter and sculptor and the most famous living Latin American artist in the world, celebrates his anniversary. "Father" of fat figures, recognizable all over the world, turned 85. But, despite his venerable age and solid financial state, he still works every day, and standing up, no less. Here are some facts about the man who is called "the main landmark person of Colombian and Latin American art."
"What keeps me going is the curiosity to know what I will say in my next painting and the desire to learn a little in each new work," he tells Life! in his interview.
1. Fernando Botero was born in Medellin on April 19, 1932 and as a boy he wanted to be a bullfighter. At age 12, his uncle enrolled him in matador school, which he attended for two years, but at the age of 15 he changed his mind and decided he wanted to become an artist, shocking his conservative family. Nonetheless, his passion for corrida has still remained and took shape in a series of paintings.
2. Botero’s career went uphill in 1958, when he received the main prize at the Salón Nacional de Artistas in Bogotá. Since then, he is one of the most popular contemporary artists, and, perhaps, is the only artist whose art works stand on famous avenues and squares around the world, including the Champs Elysees in Paris, Grand Avenue in New York, Rambla del Raval in Barcelona, the Commerce Square in Lisbon, the Piazza della Signoria in Florence and many others.
Bronze Bird by Fernando Botero near Raffles Place, along the Singapore River, is very popular with Indian filmmakers.
Photo: via PBase.com
3. His trademark style Botero developed in the second half of 1950s, when at work on a painting called Still Life with Mandolin, the instrument suddenly seemed enormous. Before that, the artist mainly depicted males and horses. His paintings differed so drastically in styles, that viewers could take them as works of different artists. His distinctive style hasn’t been changing for years. Now you cannot tell if an art work was done a few days or 20 years ago.
Fernando Botero, Naturaleza muerta con frutas (Still Life with Fruits and Pot)
Fernando Botero, Piñas (Still Life with Pineapple), 1970
4. Botero insists that his figures not fat but volumetric. "I don’t paint fat women. Nobody believes me but it is true. What I paint are volumes. When I paint a still life I also paint with volume, if I paint an animal it is volumetric, a landscape as well," he told. "I am interested in volume, the sensuality of form. If I paint a woman, a man, a dog or a horse, I always do with this idea of the volume, it is not that I have an obsession with fat women," he added.
5. Botero said that all his three wives were skinny. His present wife, Greek artist Sophia Vari, weights just 55 kilos (121 pounds). He has four children with his ex-wifes. His first wife, former Colombian culture minister Gloria Zea, bore his three children, and his second wife, Cecilia Zambrano, gave birth to his one more son.
Left: Fernando Botero, The First Lady, 1989.
6. Botero believes that the most important element in his studio is light, which should certainly fall from the north. While painting, he uses all traditional materials: oil, watercolor, pastel and so on, except for acrylic. "The idea that this is plastic does not appeal to me," he explained.
Fernando Botero, Circus Musicians, ca 2007-2008. Oil 195 x 151cm.
Fernando Botero, Dancers, 2002. Pastel on paper 142 x 118 cm. Artist's collection
7. Fernando Botero has been collecting artworks of his colleagues, but in the year of 2000 he donated his collection valued at $200 million to two Colombian museums, the renovated Museum of Antioquia in Medellin and the cultural wing of the Banco de la Republica in Bogota. With this collection the Botero Museum was later founded in Bogota. After that, the artist stopped buying art works. Besides, he donated 400 of his own art pieces to state institutions. First time, it happened in 1978, when the Museum of Antioquia in Medellin wanted to buy one of his works.
8. The only work that Fernando Botero, in his own words, would like to own, is the "Baptism of Christ" by Piero della Francesca. The painting is in the collection of the National Gallery, London. When asked what the artist would do to get this painting, he answered in short: "I would have stolen it."
9. Botero was greatly impressed by artwork of Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez during his travel around Spain. He also made several parodies of the famous canvases of European artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Raphael, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and others.
Fernando Botero, Federico da Montefeltro (after Piero della Francesca), 1998.
Fernando Botero, Mona Lisa (after Leonardo da Vinci), 1977.
Just as well, Botero turns to the dark side of life in his work. "In the 1960s, I did portraits of the military juntas in South America," Botero said. "I did paintings of the drug violence in Colombia… and drawings of the prisoner abuses by American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."
Fernando Botero, Abu Ghraib 55, 2005.
Fernando Botero, El camino de los lamentos (The Road to Wailing), 2011.
10. On world popularity, Fernando Botero competes with his compatriot, writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is one of the richest artists in the world. He is recognized as one of the few painters who, during his lifetime, could benefit from his great success in art. He owns houses in Monaco, Italy, Greece, Colombia and France, where he now lives.
Left: Fernando Botero. Photo via arteinvestimenti. it
Written by Vlad Maslow on materials from different sources. Title illustration: Fernando Botero, Self-Portrait as Spanish Conquistador (detail), 1986.
Artists mentioned in the article