Botero in a big way in the largest retrospective on his work

Returns Fernando Botero to Madrid with its excesses and deformations. It returns with its strong colors and large sizes. It does so through a large exhibition with 67 works of an equally large format mounted in the spacious rooms of the CentroCentro space that the Madrid City Council houses at its headquarters in Plaza de Cibeles. A joy to behold in these sad and far from easy times for art.

The exhibition, titled
Botero: 60 years of painting
, is a retrospective which actually spans half a century of his career and focuses rather on the last three decades of the author. And it includes some of the recent works that he has been doing in watercolor on canvas: the latest innovation in an artist with a very marked style but always open to “experimenting, questioning and reinventing his own barriers”, in the words of the curator of the monograph, Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz.



Botero Exhibition in Madrid (Arthemisia)

The exhibition, which opens to the public this Friday and until February 7, is supplied by loans from European private collectors and has been organized between the Arthemisia company and the Madrid city council. The mayor himself, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, presented her yesterday with the daughter of the Colombian artist, who due to her 88 years of age and despite being “in good shape” –according to her– did not travel to the Spanish capital “out of prudence” .


The exhibition includes very recent pieces of watercolor on canvas: the latest from an artist who does not stop

Botero exhibition in Madrid

Botero Exhibition in Madrid (Arthemisia)


Close relationship with Spain

Botero met Spain in 1952, when he was 20 years old. “He came as an art student. A very poor student ”, remembers his daughter in conversation with The vanguard. If the young painter was able to jump the pond, it was thanks to the money he received when he won the second prize at the IX Annual Colombian Artists Salon in Bogotá, specifically for his painting
Oceanfront
. After a brief stay in Barcelona, she settled in Madrid to enroll as a student at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts.



“He dedicated himself to copying the great Prado masters to learn everything he could from them. Well, it was here that he finally met great art, great painting in museums; something that did not exist then in Colombia. And here infinite artistic possibilities arose for him, and especially the theme of the bullfight, so important in his work, ”continues Lina Botero. For this reason, “and although at that time he suffered from hunger and hardships”, the possibility of returning now with his paintings to Madrid –where he already presented two exhibitions at the Reina Sofía in 1987 and in 1994 with monumental sculptures on Paseo de Recoletos– represents for him “an enormous emotion.”

Visitors take a tour of the exhibition 'Botero: 60 years of painting' at the Centro Centro in Madrid

Visitors take a tour of the exhibition ‘Botero: 60 years of painting’ in the Centro Centro of Madrid (David Fernández / EFE)

It is appropriate to talk about Botero’s youth not only because we are looking at a retrospective with his paintings since 1967 (
Behold the man
) –And until last year, with eight watercolors of varied themes–, but because of the importance that adolescence and childhood have in the entire production of the artist from Medellín. “Memories of when I was a child or very young form the core of my father’s work,” explains the daughter. Although he already wrote this himself: “My painting reflects a world that I knew during my youth. It is a kind of nostalgia or obsession that I have made the central theme of my work ”.



The 67 paintings hanging in CentroCentro are a generous sample of Botero’s pictorial art. Especially taking into account the size of the fabrics – almost always more than 150 X 100 centimeters and in many cases greater than 200 X 150 -, and the special difficulties in moving the pieces under the restrictions due to the pandemic. But the Colombian was always a prolific creator, and his entire production consists of some 3,000 oil paintings, just over 200 sculptures and around 12,000 pencil, charcoal, pastel and sanguine drawings.

Botero exhibition in Madrid

Botero exhibition in Madrid (Arthemisia)

“He has never stopped working,” continues Lina Botero. And remember how he began to cultivate the circus theme during his month of theoretical vacations. It was 14 years ago in Zihuatanejo, a fishing town on the Pacific coast of Mexico. A traveling celebrity crossed the town in procession to announce their arrival and upcoming performances. “I remember it was a very humble but very beautiful circus. My father was fascinated and immediately began to draw figures of the members of the company that he would later turn into large oil paintings ”.



Botero exhibition in Madrid

Botero Exhibition in Madrid (Arthemisia)

Ten of those paintings, executed between 2007 and 2008, make up one of the seven sections of the Madrid show (“Circo”). There are, of course, portraits of clowns, trapeze artists, musicians, a contortionist … All of them with a certain expression of sadness that collides with the bright colors in which they are painted. And all in action, as befits their nature, but “with the serenity and static characteristic of Boterian characters”, the curator emphasizes. The vision of the parade in Zihuatanejo led Botero – she adds – to “a deep reflection on the circus as a universal artistic theme” treated by masters of great impact in her work, such as Picasso, Degas, Renoir, Matisse or Seurat.

Botero exhibition in Madrid

Eposición Botero en Madrid
(1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All rights reserved / Arthemisia)




If childhood is the backbone of Botero’s artistic tale, Colombia in particular and South America in general are his main seat. Hence, the exhibition review in Madrid opens with the section called “Latin American Life”, consisting of oil paintings from 1989 to 2006 such as Dancer at the bar, Seated woman, The bathroom, The end of the party or the diptych
President
and
The First Lady
, the latter ascribed to his series of paintings on politicians, military and bishops.

Botero exhibition in Madrid

Botero exhibition in Madrid (Arthemisia)

Another of the spaces in the exhibition is dedicated to “Religion”, understood as “an excuse to explore pictorially the situations, shapes, colors, costumes and the plastic and poetic world of the clergy, with humor and satire”, according to the Police station. The other sections are: “Versions”, with the paintings he made in homage to the great masters of art history, such as Velázquez, Piero della Francesca, Jan van Eyck or Rubens; “Still life”, where some
Flores
, a
Money
or some
Piñas
they serve him to explore what he calls “the naturalness of deformation”; “The bullfight”, nourished with scenes or simple human and animal figures from Party; and “Watercolors on Canvas”, with those eight recent pieces on themes that he had previously touched in oil, such as
Carnival, Guitarist
o Family. It is not all Botero but Botero in a big way, as it corresponds.



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