Born in 1932, Colombian artist Fernando Botero started creating his Boterismo art pieces – paintings, sketches, sculptures – during the 1950s while living in Mexico. Besides Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Botero shared his interpretations of other Old Masters, like Jan van Eyck’s the Arnolfini Portrait and Vermeer’s Study of a Young Woman (not to be confused with “Girl with a Pearl Earring”), all of which we descanted in Art History 101. No other living artist has a more eminent oeuvre than Botero.
My two-day visit to Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, could not be more adventitious and indelible. (It took place a day after I attended that year’s Rio de Janeiro Carnival – an essential destination in every peregrinator’s bucket list!) The tour guide asked me what I yearned to see in this verdant metropolis on high plateau. For one unfamiliar with the transcontinental nation, only Botero, Gabriel García Márquez, and cartel came to mind, none of which enthralled. In 2000, Botero donated both his own work and his art collection to Museo Botero, housed in an elegant La Candelaria district colonial mansion. Upon entering the museum I sped up my stroll – there was much to absorb and appreciate. Overwhelmed by the previous day’s chimerical Rio-style festivity, and intrigued, moments earlier, by El Museo del Oro’s whimsical display of scintillating pre-Columbian gold artifacts, by a pigeon resting on a Bolivar statue’s head; and sighting of rooftop snipers, I found Museo Botero the impeccable coda for this journey to South America where modernity and antiquity, equability and revolution, and aboriginal and Western civilizations amalgamated.
For centuries, still life has received the least accolades, be it in auction marketplace or in academia – this is not a personal observation – a Wikipedia article devotes itself to the discourse of hierarchy of genres.
Through his career Botero never hesitates to produce still life. In 1977 Botero painted Still Life With Coffee Pot. A similar pot titivating his 2005 charcoal piece is entitled Still Life With Teapot and Lemons. Is it a coffee pot or teapot? Why would anyone place and paint a coffee pot next to pears and apples? Once a pot is used to brew coffee, it shouldn’t be used to store tea. The pot has to be a teapot!
Botero’s 1987 Still Life With Mountain View in charcoal and pencil, one of the loveliest still life ever created by mankind, IMHO, was affordable back in 2011 – we all missed the boat! What prompted me to write this post is Botero’s 1976 Still Life with Watermelon – a bronze sculpture attempting to capture a tablecloth’s fluidity, softness. That teapot, ever more bloated, once again makes its appearance.
Both naturaleza muerta and bodegón mean “still life” in Spanish. Searching these terms on the Internet leads to more discovery of Boterismo Still Life. Only have time to read one article about Botero? I recommend 10 things to know about Fernando Botero.
Images provided by author with the exception of Still Life With Teapot, which has been altered for this post