Fernando Botero: Remembering the Legacy of a Colombian Painter and Sculptor
The art world mourns the loss of Fernando Botero, a beloved Colombian painter and sculptor whose work captured the essence of Colombian traditions, virtues, and flaws. President Gustavo Petro expressed his sorrow on social media, writing, “Fernando Botero has died, the painter of our traditions and defects, the painter of our virtues. The painter of our violence and peace. Of the dove discarded a thousand times and placed on its throne a thousand times.”
Botero’s daughter, Lina Botero, confirmed the news of her father’s passing to the media in Colombia, revealing that the artist passed away at the age of 91 after facing medical complications. Liliana Molina, an expert on Botero’s work, described his creations as “full of bright colors, giant figures, and very human works,” which have a profound impact on viewers.
Born in Medellín on April 19, 1932, Botero became one of Colombia’s most renowned artists, earning him international recognition. CNN aptly describes him as “the most universal Colombian after the writer Gabriel García Márquez.” Best known for his distinctive style featuring large figures, often referred to as “fat ones,” Botero used his art to convey political criticism and satire.
Botero was more than a talented painter—he was also a member of Colombia’s golden generation of artists. Alongside painters Alejandro Obregón and Jorge Elías Triana, Botero shared the second prize in the ‘Pintura del X Salón de Artistas Colombianos’ with his oil painting ‘Contrapunto.’
Throughout his life, Botero embarked on three marriages. His first marriage was to cultural manager Gloria Zea in 1955, from which they had three children. Botero divorced Zea in 1960 and later married Cecilia Zambrano in 1964. His third and final marriage took place in 1978 after settling in Paris with the Greek sculptor Sophie Vari, who also passed away this year.
Botero’s legacy goes beyond his personal life and into the realm of cultural impact. A biography shared by the Banco de la República of Colombia details Botero’s journey as an artist, mentioning his first exhibition at the Leo Matiz gallery in Bogotá after completing his secondary education in 1951. At the time, his figurative style differed greatly from the popular pop and abstract art movements, which caused a delay in appreciation for his work. However, his paintings’ unique and personal vision garnered attention and admiration.
CNN emphasizes Botero’s artistic revolution, characterized by his sensual volumetry, evident throughout his paintings and sculptures. This style enabled him to depict various episodes of Colombian reality, from showcasing beautiful traditions to reflecting significant historical events. Reuters notes that even amidst the curves and pastel colors of his canvases, Botero shed light on the violence plaguing Colombia, including the death of notorious drug trafficker Pablo Escobar.
One of Botero’s most impactful series of artworks focused on the torture that occurred in the Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq war. Through 80 paintings and drawings, he unveiled the harsh realities endured by prisoners in the wake of armed conflicts.
Additionally, Botero created “La paloma de la paz” (The Dove of Peace) after the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016. Although this piece sparked controversy due to the political climate, it demonstrated Botero’s willingness to engage with current events and make a statement through his art.
The world has lost a true master in the realm of art. We bid farewell to Maestro Botero, whose tremendous cultural legacy in Colombia and around the globe will continue to inspire generations to come. Rest in peace, Fernando Botero.