Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero dies in Monaco


Painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, whose chubby figures became a symbol of Colombian art that traveled the world and fetched millions of dollars at auction, died Friday. He was 91 years old.

The death was confirmed by his daughter Lina Botero. “My father died this morning at 9:00 in Monaco. “He had pneumonia,” the woman told Colombian radio station Caracol Radio.

“The success of this Colombian is indeed immense. “His most important exhibitions are unprecedented in art history,” his son Juan Carlos wrote in his 2010 book “The Art of Fernando Botero.” “Fernando Botero created a style. A style of its own, original and easily recognizable.”

Botero was born on April 19, 1932 in Medellín, Colombia’s second most important city, to merchant David Botero and Flora Angulo. He was the second of three children.

Botero’s childhood was spent in a bullfighting school, where he was enrolled by one of his uncles, but he soon left the world of bullfighting, although he returned to it years later in his paintings.

His artistic life took off at the age of 14 when he decided to pursue art. His mother supported his determination, but with the warning that he would be the one who got the money for his studies.

The first artistic exhibition in which he participated was the Exhibition of Antioquian Painters in 1948. Later he had his first solo exhibition in 1951 at the Leo Matiz Art Gallery in Bogotá and the following year the oil painting “Frente al mar” was the second place in the IX. National Artists Salon.

That same year he went to Madrid to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando.

From 1953 to 1955 Botero traveled between France and Italy. In Florence he learned the technique of fresco painting at the Academia San Marcos. From Europe he traveled to Mexico to study the works of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.

In the middle of his travels, he married Gloria Zea, with whom he had his children Fernando, Lina and Juan Carlos. After returning to Bogotá, he was appointed professor at the School of Arts of the National University in 1958 and two years later traveled to New York, where he settled after his divorce.

In the 1960s, Botero began experimenting with the volume of objects and characters in his paintings. His original, lush creations attracted the attention of art critics and by then the painter had created hundreds of drawings as well as approximately 1,000 paintings.

Botero remarried Cecilia Zambrano in 1964 and in 1970 they had their son Pedro, who died four years later in a car accident on a highway in Jaen, Spain. Botero also divorced Zambrano. He captured the pain after his son’s death in the painting “Pedrito”. He also donated 16 works to the Museum of Antioquía in Medellín to honor the little boy, and the museum in turn named a room in memory of “Pedrito Botero.”

In the 1970s he put painting aside and began experimenting with sculpture, which brought him great success. The materials most commonly used by the artist for his three-dimensional figures were bronze, marble and cast resin. In 1978 Botero returned to painting and has alternated between both disciplines ever since.

Botero used to say that he painted from morning to evening, whether it was a day of rest or a holiday, and in absolute silence because he was not distracted by anything.

“Fernando Botero is one of the most disciplined people you can meet. His friends and family say he works every day, every year. For Botero there are no rest periods, no holidays, no weekends. He paints at Christmas. He paints on his birthday. On New Year’s Day he paints,” said Juan Carlos Botero in his book.

He loved very much the country in which he was born and made a total of three donations to the Museum of Antioquia, the first in 1976, after the death of his son, and the others in 1984 and 2000. Two years after his third gift to the Museum, he donated the Plaza de las Esculturas with 23 works in front of the museum. The venue also offers a retrospective of the painter from 1954 to 2000.

In the 1990s, Botero had the honor of presenting his volumetric sculptures in Monte Carlo and on the Champs Elysées in Paris, becoming the first foreign artist to show his works in these spaces.

In 1995, his 1.8-ton bronze sculpture “The Bird,” erected in a park in Medellín, was blown up by unknown assailants, killing 22 people and injuring more than 200.

In addition to the attack, Botero suffered this year the trial and imprisonment of his eldest son Fernando, convicted in the so-called Trial 8,000 for investigations into the proceeds of drug money for Ernesto Samper’s 1994 presidential campaign, in which he was a director.

Fernando Botero Jr. was released in 1998, but in 2002 he was again indicted for the theft of funds intended for Samper’s election campaign, and only in 2008 did he manage to win his freedom after several appeals.

The painter made clear his pain and disappointment at his son’s mistakes.

Botero “never showed up” while the legal dispute was ongoing, his son’s lawyer, former Interior Secretary Fernando Londoño, said in a telephone conversation. “No call, no reason in all this time.”

According to Londoño, the painter’s trouble stemmed largely from his son using one of his bank accounts in the United States to deposit money that had been donated to Samper’s campaign and which he later attempted to steal, authorities said. It took years for Botero and his son to reconcile.

His last wife was the Greek sculptor Sophia Vari.

His fondness for Botero’s works led to him establishing himself as one of the most popular Latin American artists on the art market in the last years of his life. In May 2011, Sotheby’s auction house sold his painting “A Family” for nearly $1.4 million, and in November, Christie’s sold his monumental sculpture “Dancers” for $1.76 million.

But the economic success did not change his personality. Those who knew him confirmed that he was characterized by his simplicity, his informal language and his sincerity.

“Botero is one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century. In general, the modern artist, unlike the Renaissance, is a sculptor, painter, draftsman, or watercolorist. “Botero, on the other hand, like another exceptional case, (the Spanish Pablo) Picasso, seems like a work engine that never stops looking for new forms of expression,” notes Juan Carlos Botero in his book.

Nation World News Desk
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