The President's Family 1967

Fernando Botero is Colombia's most famous artist. He is best known for his voluminous deformation of the human form. Pictured here are the chief icons of power in Latin America: The Church, the military, and the ruling elite, a class defined economically as well as ethnically, represented by the priest, the general, and the president's family, respectively. The artist is pictured in the background as in Velazquez' famous Las Meninas.

Official Portrait of the Military Junta 1971

Botero is also well known for his sense of responsibility as an artist. Botero says: "The true artist needs a divergent form of expression, and in a sense his significance will stand in direct relation to his resistance and his protest. That is why art is a permanent revolution." The irony in this portrait is that the members of any Junta would not likely pose for a portrait that would expose their identities and affiliations. The wealthy women and the bishop represent the cooperation of the Church and the upper classes with repressive military regimes.

The House of Raquel vega (Medellín, Colombia) 1975

The sustained inflation of Botero's figures transforms this divergence into the norm. Various attitudes against women are portrayed in this house of prostitution. The blonde hair represents the obsession with being European rather than of mixed race. The mestiza madame who steals from her clients betrays enduring racial prejudices against non-European peoples.

Reclining Priest 1977

Botero's narrative style continues the tradition of Latin American Baroque art and thematically is reminiscent of the cotidian stories of artists like Diego Velasquez, the premier painter of Spain's Golden Age. Like the figure of this priest at leisure in a poor region, the Church is blotted in its power and influence.

Untitled 1978

For a Latin American audience this scene needs no title and in fact naming such an incident can be dangerous.

The General 1983

In Botero's work all the figures are obese. This inflation is a constant which becomes a norm, much like the distortions the people are conditioned to accept as normal by repressive dictatorial regimes.

Man With Horse 1989

The horse, like all flesh in Botero's work, displays the exaltation of the aesthetic of the delicious, well-fed, indeed, edible, flesh. This is a contrast to the notion of beauty as thin and angular.

The Guerillas 1988

Here even nature is round and full. The sympathetic portrayal of these perhaps drunken, humble rebels is reminiscent of Velazquez' Los Borrachos, or the Drinkers.

Sleeping Venus, 1994, San Antonio Park, Medellín

Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa has termed the rotundness of Botero's figurative style a "grandiose fullness" which offers a polemic to the prudish denigration of the human form, prevalent in European (Protestant) art.

MALE TORSO, 1994, San Antonio Park in Medellín

At the close of 2006, Botero is at work on a series of paintings condemning the continued sectarian violence caused by government corruption and the drug trade in his native land.

All images from:
Botero: Paintings & Drawings
1992 Prestal-Verlag Publishing, Mandlstrasse 26, D-8000 Munich 40, Germany