Artist Botero (91), known for his plump portraits, died 5:55 PM in Cultuur & Media The Colombian did not want his portraits to be seen as images of fat people, he was concerned with portraying volume. ‘Art is always a matter of exaggeration.’

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Botero in front of one of his works, 2001
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Colombian artist Fernando Botero has died in his hometown of Monaco at the age of 91. Gustavo Petro, president of his native country, announced his death.

“The painter of our traditions and our flaws, the painter of our virtues. Of our violence and our peace,” he outlines the importance of Botero on X.

The painter was known for the exaggerated shapes in his portraits: full moon faces and voluptuous bodies take up so much space that they almost threaten to burst out of the frame.

Botero also made plump versions of classic masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa in his characteristic design language. Even in his still lifes and landscapes the subjects burst from their contours like fully blown balloons.


Botero was born in Medellín in 1932. He lost his father as a toddler and grew up in poverty. Due to his passion for art, he left the bullfighting school where he was enrolled and devoted himself to painting.

He combined his preference for European Renaissance art with influences from modern masters such as Picasso and the political work of the Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Local traditions, such as the bright colors of pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial art, are also clearly recognizable.

Even when he was a teenager, his works attracted attention, resulting in Botero receiving a scholarship to study painting in Europe. He would continue to travel the world throughout his life and lived for shorter or longer periods in countries such as Italy, the US, Mexico, France and Spain.

His works are still popular in collections, especially in his own museum in Bogotá, to which he donated dozens of works.

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  • AFP
    Botero’s style is immediately recognisable
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    Also in his versions of famous Renaissance works
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    Even fruit can be displayed this way
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    Or Jesus on the cross
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    Dutch painters also passed by, such as this version of Hieronymus Bosch
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    One of the more explicitly political works, A Massacre in Columbia
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    He also incorporated atrocities in Iraq into his art
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His own style emerged in 1956 when he painted a mandolin with an impossibly small sound hole. Botero discovered that distortion suddenly made him look at everyday things differently. He explicitly denied that he painted fatties. “Nobody wants to believe it, but it’s really true. What I do is paint scale.”

For him, this fit in with the tradition of predecessors such as Michelangelo and Raphael. “They were great at using volume. They used it to exalt the sensuality of the subject. Everything in those paintings was a party.”

Although his works became immediately recognizable, he did not consider what he did to differ significantly from the work of other artists. “Art is always a matter of exaggeration,” he regularly stated. “Van Gogh’s landscapes were also not the way he colored them. They were gray and olive green, not the beautiful colors with which he painted them.”

Subtle criticism

In his early years, Botero also used his approach to subtly criticize the elite in his country. Secretly he could make fun of dictators, generals or church leaders by immortalizing them in such an exaggerated way. In later years his commitment became more explicit, with, for example, a series of works in 2004 about the abuse in the American Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The bloody history of his native country also appeared in his oeuvre. However, Botero was certainly not convinced that he could help prevent abuses. “It won’t change anything. Guernica, the most famous painting of the twentieth century, did not dislodge Franco; he remained in power for another 30 years.”

“But art can offer a testimony, about the horrors, the absurdity, the injustice, corruption or political idiocy,” he added. “If Picasso had not been there, no one would have remembered that village of Guernica.”


Botero remained active until the end: even in his last years he still worked hours a day in his studio. “I want to die painting,” he once said. He eventually died at home: he had previously been hospitalized for pneumonia, but was allowed to leave when the end was near.

“Fernando Botero was without a doubt one of the most important contemporary artists in the world and the greatest artist in the history of our country,” says former Colombian President Iván Duque in a condolence message on X. “The importance of his work and his artistic legacy lives on in our history and the hearts of Colombians.”

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