Fernando Botero, painter of our traditions and flaws, painter of our virtues, has died, Colombian President Gustavo Petro wrote on social media on Friday.
Botero is Colombia’s most famous artist. He was particularly known for his bulging depictions of people and animals.
Botero’s works, which often consist of rich, colorful and slightly surreal forms, were very well known and popular. He painted politicians, animals, saints, and scenes from his childhood, conflicts, and natural disasters.
The works have been shown in museums and public spaces in cities around the world, including Bogotá, Madrid, Paris, Singapore and Venice. Botero’s large bronze sculptures can be found in parks and buildings in many European and Latin American capitals.
Botero was born on April 19, 1932 in Medellin. When he was a child, his uncle put him through a bullfighting school. He did not stay there long, but the experiences remained with him in art.
Medellin declared mourning for a week after the death. Many of his works are on display in the city, and will “remain forever,” says Mayor Daniel Quintero.
Botero was drawn to art at an early age, and when he was 15, he was selling his own paintings of bulls and matadors in his hometown. After his first solo exhibition in Bogotá in the 1950s, he traveled to Europe, working and studying in Madrid, Florence, and elsewhere. He then traveled to Mexico, and also lived in New York, among other places, and finally in Monaco.
Botero himself said he was inspired by beauty, but also by the turmoil in his homeland, which has been torn by armed conflict for more than 50 years.
In 1995, a powerful bomb placed on the statue of Botero “The Flying” exploded in Medellin. About 30 people were killed. In 2000, he gifted Botero a replica, which he called the “Bird of Peace,” which was placed next to the broken statue in his hometown.
Billions in gifts
In the 2000s, Botero painted a series of paintings depicting torture at the American prison Abu Ghraib in Iraq. He said the actions were driven by shock and anger.
Botero was among the best-selling artists of his time. But he gave away many of his works, and experts estimate that Botero donated artworks with a total value of more than NOK 2 billion.
Colombian media hailed Botero as the country’s greatest artist of all time. The 91-year-old man’s daughter, Lina, says he died in Monaco after recently contracting pneumonia.
He continued to paint until the end, even though he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which made it difficult for him to walk and communicate, she says.
I often thought about death
Nicknamed the “Picasso of Latin America,” Botero was a passionate and tireless artist. He produced more than 3,000 paintings and 300 sculptures.
Even in his advanced days, according to what he said, he worked ten hours a day.
– I work more now, perhaps because I know that there is only a little time left, this is what Botero said in an interview with Agence France-Presse in 2012, the year he turned eighty.
– I often think about death, and it saddens me to leave this world and no longer be able to draw. He said: I love him very much.
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