Love was not only present in the work of Fernando Botero. In his private life, several women have marked history and accompanied the artistic quest of a man described as charming, cultured and an excellent conversationalist.
His first great love was Gloria Zea. They met in 1955 at the University of the Andes, when she was a beautiful philosophy student and he, a painter who had just graduated from Europe. You, student; him, his attractive painting teacher. Soon everyone in the room realized that their attraction was too obvious. Yes, they were madly in love and in the midst of the scandal, Botero was expelled from the university.
The relationship between Zea – who died of kidney disease in 2019 – and Botero ended in 1960, but their love of art and seven grandchildren bound them together throughout their lives. Together they also faced the case in which Fernando Botero Jr., as Ernesto Samper’s defense minister, was implicated in the 8,000 scandal, which ultimately kept him in prison for several years.
Amidst this brilliance, Cecilia Zambrano from Valle del Cauca entered the life of the master, whom he married in 1964, a year in which the artist’s work was recognized at the First Intercol Salon of Young Artists. The couple lived in New York and later traveled to Europe. Six years later, Pedro Botero, the artist’s fourth child, was born. But during a stay in Spain in 1974, tragedy surprised them when the family suffered a car accident: Fernando and his wife suffered several injuries, but Pedrito, as the teacher called him, was less lucky and died instantly.
From this pain came Pedrito on Horseback, one of his major works, and a rupture in his marriage, which ended in divorce in 1975.
However, two years later, already separated, the memory of this crush prompted him to look for her and they began dating. Discussions about art initially served as an alibi. But art gave way to love, although it wasn’t easy. “My marriage was fatal, a marriage of convenience, but I didn’t want a relationship outside of it. Also, Fernando’s success with women scared me. “I thought the relationship was impossible,” said Sophia, who died last May.
But like in great love stories, contrary to her expectations, she fell madly in love and left her husband to live her life at the Colombian’s side.
Botero also wanted a third chance, although his failed marriages made him weary of romantic idealism. Then he knew he had found his soulmate. They decided not to marry because “conventional marriage is suffocating,” and instead lived a life free of jealousy, grievances, children and drama. For 48 years, they were united by the same idea: time as a couple was just as important as time for themselves. “It’s a daily, renewable contract,” said Sophia. “Even when you know you are free, deep down you want to be with the other person.”