Neo-Figurative Columbian artist Fernando Botero is best known for his paintings and sculptures that focus on situational portraiture. He is recognized for his robust, exaggerated human subjects that were often inspired by political and religious situations. Botero explains his use of obese figures and forms as such: "An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it."
Fernando Botero was born in Medelín, in Antioquia, Colombia, on April 19th, 1932. He and his brothers were raised by his mother after a heart attack took his father’s life when Fernando was only four. Solace in painting evolved into a recognizable talent when he began selling his artwork for a mere five pesos a piece outside the bull fighting arena near his home.
At seventeen, Botero contributed an article titled ‘Picasso and the Nonconformity of Art’ to El Colombiano, a Medlin newspaper. Its publication got him expelled from his Jesuit high school for promoting ‘irreligious’ ideas. Thereafter, he was sent to a government school in Marinilla to finish his education.
In 1951, two years after his graduation, Fernando Botero moved to Bogota where he enjoyed and sold out his first successful international show at the Leo Matiz Gallery. In order to further his art education, the young artist traveled to Madrid, Spain to study at the Academy of San Fernando from 1953 until 1955, and then went on to Florence, Italy where he learned the fresco techniques of the Italian masters.
While teaching at the School of Fine Arts of the National University, Botero was greatly inspired by the political murals of Rivera and Orozco. Subsequently, political influences would be defined in the paintings he exhibited at the Biblioteca Nacional in Bogota.
A visit to New York in the late 1950’s prompted Botero to live and work there throughout the 1960’s. He began to experiment with volume in his paintings by creating subjects of exaggerated proportions. This would later define his art and be the recognizable trait that would render him world-known.
In 1969, his work was shown in the exhibition entitled 'Inflated Images' at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; an event that established his reputation as a major painter. Always looking to express himself, he started to sculpt and would later produce popular works such as ‘The Warrior’ and ‘Mother and Child’.
Married twice, he had three children, two from his first marriage and one from his second. In 1974, he and his son from his second marriage were involved in a car accident that injured Botero and ended his son’s short life.
The tone of Fernando Botero’s art changed during the late 1990’s when guerrilla wars raged in Colombia. His paintings became dark interpretations of kidnappings, torture and death. In 2005, the torture of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison drove the artist to create a series of fifty paintings to serve as a reminder of man’s inhumanity toward man.
Although Fernando Botero suffered set backs in his life, he always remained focused and dedicated to his art. He has showings in major museums worldwide, and has received numerous awards including the First Intercol at the Museum of Modern Art in Bogota. From his interpretation of the ‘Mona Lisa’ to more intense paintings such as ‘Massacre on the Best Corner’ and ‘Massacre of the Innocents’, Botero is one of the most celebrated contemporary Latin American artists of this century.