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Artist Profile: Fernando Botero
La Escalera (2002). Available at Barnebys.

by Robyn Ashley

LONDON.- During a century of revolution, conflict and development in the continent, Fernando Botero emerged as Latin America’s most celebrated artist. Born in Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellín, Botero’s family planned a future in bull-fighting for the young artist, sending him to a matador school - an experience which seems to have been later recalled in his Matador (1984) and other works.

A few years after his matador-training, an adolescent Botero exhibited his work for the first time, influenced by political Hispanic artists such as Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez and Diego Rivera. His influences resulted in an amalgamation of themes and styles from over 1,500 years of art.

With his move to Spain in 1952, Botero abandoned his family’s plans for a glorious career as a bull-fighter in order to pursue his artistic ambitions. Whilst studying in Madrid, the now-iconic ‘Boterismo’ style began to emerge, deriving from experimentation with size and propor-tion. In its fully-developed form, ‘Boterismo’ has been defined as “smooth inflated shapes with unexpected shifts in scale” - demonstrated by The Dinner (1992).

In the early 1950s, the Colombian moved to Paris and Florence, studying the works of Re-naissance artists, which continue to impact his art today through his dedication to the sensu-ous human form alongside the boldness of Latin folk art. After almost a decade in Europe, Botero moved to New York, where his style continued to develop into ‘Boterismo’. Now in his 30s, the artist continued to experiment by working in different media, particularly sculpture; unable at the time to afford the cost of durable and workable materials, Botero was restricted to sculpting with acrylic resin and sawdust - a feat which soon proved futile. During the 1970s, he returned to Paris once more to attempt the art of sculpture. Cities across the world today - including Medellín, Barcelona and New York - are punctuated by Botero’s later sculptures, taking the style and themes of his paintings and transforming them into larger-than-life, bronze, 3-dimensional forms.

Since the turn of the century, Botero has moved away from sculpture and shifted back to drawings and paintings with an overtly political message, exploring issues from drug cartels in South America to the torture of Iraqi prisoners by the American military.

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