Fernando Botero - Latin America New York Monday, November 24, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galería Theo, Madrid
    Private Collection, Mexico City
    By descent to the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “One day I painted a still life. That day I became an artist.” Fernando Botero

    During the 1940s and 1950s, when Botero was in his twenties, Colombia was not considered a vibrant Latin American art center the way that countries like Argentina,Brazil and Mexico were. However, Colombia, like other countries in South America, had been highly influenced by the European religious art introduced by the Spanish at the time of the Conquest, easily found in chapels and altars all over the country. Furthermore, Botero studied art in Europe and his education, particularly in Italy, had a significant impact on his style. He studied under Roberto Longhi, a renowned authority on Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, which enabled him to gain a solid art historical and philosophical grounding. Thus, this dialogue between an erudite education and religious art for the masses is the key to understanding the development of his aesthetic. One of the strongest foundations of his work is respect for and acknowledgement of the heritage of Western Classicism, particularly of Renaissance and Post-Renaissance art, represented by masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Diego Velázquez, Raphael and Michelangelo.

    Another important influence in his style, one that is less known and yet quite significant, is the impact of Mexican muralism, with which he became well acquainted in the 1950s while living in Mexico City. During this time, muralism was already declining; however, the monumental scale of the human forms and the social commentary in the murals from masters such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco had a decisive impact on Botero. This is the reason he began painting his figures with the exaggerated proportions for which he is known. For Botero, the Mexican school sparked the use of excessive volume as a tool to depict and make mordant comments on society’s human shortcomings. As Botero describes his own work: “All the elements of my work as a painter and sculptor spring from the same spirit: namely, from my passion for volumes.” Furthermore, the social commentary evinced in his works also contains an incisive sense of humor and human empathy that makes his oeuvre deeply humanist.

    Botero’s oeuvre depicts a vast repertory of themes: religion, politics, sex and sensuality, and everyday life in his native Colombia. One of his most developed subjects is the genre of still life, in which he is considered to “have attained the highest degree of excellence” according to renowned Colombian Art Historian, Eduardo Serrano. What is unique to Botero’s still lifes is that, as in his other genres, Botero paints quotidian objects such as fruits, flowers and sweets with the same characteristics as all the other subjects of his other paintings. He also purposefully reproduces typical Colombian meals and celebrations through his still lifes, depicting objects that are distinctive to Colombia.

    In the present lot, Naturaleza muerta, 1970, Botero portrays to perfection the essence of the still life genre. Here he chooses to depict a voluptuous watermelon, a true icon of Latin American art, as the focal point of the painting. At the same time, by exaggerating its proportions, he is reinforcing his unique style of monumentalizing quotidian objects, bordering on aggrandizement. However, Botero conveys a deep respect for this historical genre by referencing the classically composed still lifes of seminal artists like the Spanish painter, Francisco de Zurbarán. Ultimately, through this painting, Botero is evincing the main traits in his work, which led him to become an established Colombian artist: an immense admiration for Old Masters fused with the exaggerated volume of proportion that is entirely his own.

  • 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.

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Naturaleza muerta

oil on canvas
70 7/8 x 76 3/4 in. (180 x 194.9 cm.)
Signed and dated "Botero 70" on the reverse.

$550,000 - 750,000 

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Director of Latin American Art
New York
+1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York Auction 24 November 2014 2pm