Fernando Botero - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Thursday, December 3, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalise or even justify it." —Fernando BoteroFernando Botero, the figurative painter, sculptor and self-titled ‘most Columbian of Colombian artists’, is internationally renowned for his voluptuous subjects, a singular style which has become affectionately known in the art world as Boterismo. Botero’s sensual forms and harmonious colour palette have been deployed to convey themes as diverse as humour and political criticism.


    Fernando Botero, The Bath, 1989
    Fernando Botero, The Bath, 1989

    Perhaps the most recognised living Latin American artist, Botero originally enrolled at a school for bullfighters, but discovered that his interest lay in drawing the bulls and the matadors. At the age of 20 he visited Europe for the first time, encountering the works of the Old Masters in Madrid, Paris and then Florence. Still life with mandolin (1956), Botero’s first still life work, marked a turning point in his career. Executed with generous outlines but shrunken apertures, he found that ‘the forms became stronger and more sensual’ through his experiments with scale i.


    The Beach


    The Beach is a characteristic example of Botero’s plump and sensuous odalisques, its nude female subject gazing at the viewer whilst languidly stretching her arm behind her head. The same character appears in several of Botero’s paintings (see for example The Bath), her pose and fleshy form strongly reminiscent of Peter Paul Rubens’s heroines - for example Angelica in The Hermit and the Sleeping Angelica (1626-28).


    Peter Paul Rubens, The Hermit and the Sleeping Angelica, 1626-28
    Peter Paul Rubens, The Hermit and the Sleeping Angelica, 1626-28

    But Botero reinvents the great European tradition of the nude; whilst these nudes were often a vehicle for exotic fantasies in an imaginary Orient, seductively displaying their wares with coy, lowered glances, Botero de-sexualises the odalisque, their rounded, exaggerated forms and volumetric stylisation more akin to Niki de Saint Phalle’s joyful Nanas or Pablo Picasso’s neoclassical masterpiece Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race) as enduring emblems of maternity and femininity.

    Niki de Saint Phalle, Black is Different, 1994
    Niki de Saint Phalle, Black is Different, 1994

    Beaches have been used throughout art history as a potent metaphor, particularly when presented alongside the female nude: for Picasso it signified a rappel a l’ordre (recall to order) after the war, an earthy sentiment of longing and nostalgia for the familiarity of the past before the world was irrevocably changed. For de Saint Phalle the beach was a stage for female empowerment, observing in Black is different (1994) ‘I saw a fat woman on the beach today and she reminded me of a great pagan goddess’.


    Pablo Picasso, Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), 1922
    Pablo Picasso, Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), 1922. Collection of Musée Picasso, Paris


    It has always been Colombia


    The Beach’s protagonist, with her wistful expression, expresses a universal, timeless kind of vulnerability despite her voluminous form. A keen observation of humanity lies at the heart of much of Botero’s work, and despite their otherworldly appearance all his subjects can be traced to the influence of his homeland: ‘My subject matter is Colombia and it has always been Colombia,’ he has stated ii. A country split between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Colombia has been blessed with a coastline spanning over 3,200 km and beaches known for their remarkable beauty, biodiversity and culture. But the drug wars and violence which have blighted Botero’s home city of Medellín form a poignant, stormy shadow on the horizon in The Beach, casting an ominous pall over the painting’s simple nostalgic yearning:

    "I lived many years in New York, in Paris, and I have never had the feeling to paint an American or a French subject matter. The thing is that the art - and the artist - must have roots in his own land, in his own life: my life is in Colombia, and my land is Colombia. Now, of course, the language that you use to express the subject matter must be universal: the composition, the colour, the balance, etc. In this sense, subject must be local, but the language must be universal, in order to touch any human being in the world." —Fernando Botero

    i Fernando Botero, quoted in Stephane Custot, ‘Dialogue with Fernando Botero’, Fernando Botero: a Still Life Retrospective, 2 November 2018, p. 9
    ii Louise Bourgeois, ‘Obsession’, Artforum, April 1992, p. 87

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired directly from the artist)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Singapore Art Museum, Botero in Singapore, 8 December 2004 - 27 February 2005, p. 139 (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Fernando Botero

      Colombian • 1932

      Colombian artist Fernando Botero is known for his voluptuous and exaggerated paintings, sculptures and drawings. He studied under Roberto Longhi, a renowned authority on Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, obtaining a remarkable art historical knowledge of Western Classicism. This dialogue between an erudite education and religious art for the masses is the key in the development of his aesthetic.

      Botero was also influenced by Mexican muralism, with which he became acquainted while living in Mexico City. The monumental scale of the human forms in the murals gave rise to the voluminous figures for which he is best known. Botero's works make mordant comments on society's shortcomings; they also incorporate classical elements and are imbued with political satire and caricature.

      View More Works

Property from an Important Southeast Asian Collection


The Beach

signed and dated 'BOTERO 03' lower right
oil on canvas
121.5 x 99.9 cm. (47 7/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2003.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,400,000 - 3,200,000 

Sold for HK$2,772,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 3 December 2020