FERNANDO BOTERO (b. 1932)
Fernando Botero, best known for his voluptuously rotund human figures, was born in Medellín, Colombia on April 19, 1932. His father died when he was young, and he was raised by his mother, along with his two brothers. He attended a Jesuit school in Medellín and from the age of 12 to 14, he attended a matador training school. The bull fight became a recurring theme in Botero’s early work and while he was in his early teens, he sold his pictures of bull fights in front of the arena.
By the time he was 16 years of age, Botero was working as an illustrator for the local magazine El Colombiano. He also began writing articles about art theory, one of which, entitled Picasso and Non-Conformity in Art, led to his expulsion from the Jesuit school for its endorsement of Cubism. One of Botero’s important early works, Woman Crying, reflects his interest in Picasso and also reveals influences of German Expressionism and the social themes of the muralist painters Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco.
Botero held his first solo exhibition in 1951 in Bogota at the age of 19. He made enough money to travel to Spain where he studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. In 1953, he moved to Paris where he studied works at the Musée du Louvre. He also traveled to Florence where he was inspired by Renaissance artists, in particular Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca.
In 1955, Botero returned to Columbia but felt at odds with the artistic climate there. His work was not appreciated, and he went to Mexico City where he met the artists Ruffino Tamayo and José Luis Cuevas. Botero was inspired by Mexico’s pre-Columbian art and by the ethos of revolution that continued to pervade the artistic themes of his contemporaries. It was here in Mexico City that Botero stumbled upon his unique style and artistic vision of the world.