Fernando Botero, one of Latin America’s most celebrated artists, has died. According to his daughter, Lina Botero, the 91-year-old Colombian artist was suffering from complications from pneumonia and died at his home in Monaco.
“Fernando Botero, the painter of our traditions and defects, the painter of our virtues, has died,” Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced on social media.
In his paintings and sculptures, Botero often depicted rotund, whimsical figures that poked fun at the upper class of his native Colombia.
Born in Medellín, he was the son of a traveling salesman and a seamstress and once harbored a desire to be a matador.
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He spent most of his life living in Europe and the United States, but often returned to Colombia for inspiration. His home city has declared a week of mourning in his honor.
Botero’s works are instantly recognizable. His figures are corpulent and slightly absurd.
One painting depicts a Roman Catholic cardinal fast asleep in full clerical garb. Another shows a snake about to bite the head of a woman posing for a family portrait and gave rise to the term “Boterismo” to describe the voluptuous, almost cartoonish figures in his artwork.
Later in his career, Botero turned to darker subjects, like drug violence in Colombia. During an open-air concert in his home town of Medellín in 1995, guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, placed an explosive device beneath his bronze sculpture, “Pájaro” (“Bird”), killing more than 20 people and injuring more than 200.
He also painted victims of U.S. abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. “These works are the result of the indignation that the violations in Iraq produced in me and the rest of the world,” he said.
His works were hugely popular, sometimes selling for millions of dollars, and adorned major museums as well as the Champs-Élysées in Paris and Park Avenue in New York, as well as his home town of Medellín and the capital Bogotá, where the Botero Museum resides.
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