Fernando Botero, the most internationally recognized Colombian artist, has died at the age of 91.
By Josep Freixes
The painter, sculptor, and draftsman Fernando Botero died today in Monaco, where he was living. The news was announced by Colombian journalist Julio Sanchez Cristo and confirmed by the artist’s son. It has been reported that Botero, had been suffering from pneumonia in recent days, which ultimately led to his death.
The artist was born in Medellin in 1932 and rose to fame in 1962 after an exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Center in Wisconsin, USA, where he received excellent reviews. The restless creator quickly began to travel throughout Europe and the United States in search of his own artistic voice. He journeyed from Bogota to New York, Paris, Milan, and eventually settled in the town of Pietrasanta, Italy.
Pietrasanta and Boterismo
Pietrasanta, a coastal town in Tuscany, Italy, served as Fernando Botero’s personal refuge from the 1970s onwards. There, where Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo once worked, the Colombian artist began collaborating with some of the region’s most distinguished marble workshops. Pietrasanta became Botero’s home for many years, and although he had not resided in Italy for some time, this northern Italian town is still infused with the essence of Boterismo.
The relationship between Botero and Pietrasanta blossomed thanks to the town’s rich artistic tradition. Pietrasanta is renowned for its marble sculpture industry and its artistic community. Botero, drawn to the craftsmanship of local sculptors and the creative environment, was inspired to create a series of monumental sculptures. These sculptures, with their characteristic rounded and exaggerated forms, became an integral part of Pietrasanta’s cultural landscape.
Boterismo, with its inflated figures and voluptuous shapes, uniquely suits Pietrasanta’s marble, and collaborations between Botero and local sculptors resulted in masterpieces that combined Italian sensibility with Latin expression. Botero’s relationship with Pietrasanta is an example of how artistic inspiration can transcend borders, enriching both the artist and the community that embraces them.
Botero’s International Reach
Botero was not only the most recognized Colombian artist in history, but his works also have an obvious presence in cities around the world. There are signs of him everywhere from the streets of his hometown of Medellin, where the renowned Plaza Botero features dozens of his sculptures representing the Botero universe, to diverse cities—such as Buenos Aires, Santiago, Panama City, Caracas, Madrid, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Oviedo, La Coruña, Lisbon, London, Liechtenstein, Singapore, and even Dubai.
However, the artist himself acknowledged that his artistic inspiration was derived from pre-Colombian art in Mexico, as well as the revolutionary spirit of the Aztec nation, which is still present in many aspects of public life. Botero showed an interest in art from a young age. With a multidisciplinary approach, he developed his own internationally recognized style characterized by corpulent and exaggerated figures, a style he began developing in the 1950s.
Art Portraying Everyday Life
Botero’s art, however, portrays everyday life, politics, and Latin American culture through his unique style. Despite his distinct style, his work has transcended geographic, cultural, and linguistic boundaries.
Through his art, Botero addressed issues such as inequality, oppression, and the violence that has plagued not only his native Colombia but the entire Latin American region for decades. Despite his distinctive style, his work transcended conventional standards of aesthetics, inviting reflection and questioning of traditional perceptions of beauty.
Botero’s body of work is a testament to his ability to blend artistic tradition with innovation, leaving an indelible mark on the world of contemporary art.
*The article was first published in Colombia One and was republished with permission.