“Celebrate Life!” With the Maestro: Fernando Botero

Artwork: Picnic, 2001, Fernando Botero Oil paint on canvas, 113 x 165 cm.

Colombian artist Fernando Botero (b. 1932) is a man of the old school, a man who embraces a passion for living, paintbrush in hand, creating a vision of life as only he can. His voluminous figures of both painting and sculpture deftly weave the idioms of pre-Colombian Art into the paradigms of Western Art, creating an entirely new vernacular. His iconic figures, full of body and soul, have become emblematic of a way of life that is Latino to its core. It is this open embrace that has made Botero beloved wherever he goes, for he embraces the world in so many ways.

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As Botero understands, “A painted landscape is always more beautiful than a real one, because there’s more there. Everything is more sensual, and one takes refuge in its beauty. And man needs spiritual expression and nourishing. It’s why even in the prehistoric era, people would scrawl pictures of bison on the walls of caves. Man needs music, literature, and painting—all those oases of perfection that make up art—to compensate for the rudeness and materialism of life.”

First Lady, 1989, Fernando Botero Oil paint on canvas, 203 x 165 cm

First Lady, 1989, Fernando Botero Oil paint on canvas, 203 x 165 cm

This wisdom makes his work particularly pleasurable, as Botero infuses his paintings, sculptures, and drawings with an insurmountable joie de vivre. His love for life is evident in his vibrant color, his buoyant figures, and his ability to recreate classic works of art that speak to modern life.

In celebration of his singular career, Kunsthal, Rotterdam, presents Botero: Celebrate Life! on view now through September 11, 2016. The exhibition presents a broad survey of work from Botero’s numerous themes including nudes, saints, bullfights, circuses, musicians, dancers, and scenes from daily life. Botero also re-envisions classic works of Western art, giving us a new way of seeing an old favorite.

Santa Dorotea, 2014, Fernando Botero Oil paint on canvas, 188 x 100 cm

Santa Dorotea, 2014, Fernando Botero Oil paint on canvas, 188 x 100 cm

Botero reveals, “I’m a tireless worker; I don’t consider painting a work, it is not an obligation, I do it for pleasure; I haven’t found anything that amuses me more than painting.” This love for the medium is apparent. Like all who work in oil on canvas, Botero returns to a way of relating to the world that predates our modern life. There is no mechanization, no industry to it. Instead, each work is a singular blend of the hand and the eye to actualize a vision that lives deep within the mind of the master.

Celebrate Life! is a large-scale retrospective that includes selections from the artist’s personal collection, as well as favorites from throughout his career, providing a bouquet of work that speaks to some of his most important series including bullfights, circuses, classics of Western art history, still lifes, nudes, and female saints.

Dancers, 2002, Fernando Botero Pastel on paper, 142 x 118 cm

Dancers, 2002, Fernando Botero Pastel on paper, 142 x 118 cm

The beauty of a Botero is the feeling it evokes, the depth of the soul that resides in the material world. There is a sense of being in love with the world, of a grace and a strength that is profound at its core. At 84 years old, Botero is indomitable and this comes from a life well chosen. He reveals, “I’m a tireless worker; I don’t consider painting a work, it is not an obligation, I do it for pleasure; I haven’t found anything that amuses me more than painting.”

And for this, we say thanks.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.