I considered myself to be somewhat knowledgable about art. There is definitely a love for it and I did take an art history course while completed my first undergrad degree. Now, egg was on my face as I watched the world premiere of the film, Botero. Why? Because I had never heard of the artist. Now, no one in their right minds would think they know all artists, but it became apparent that there was gap in my knowledge as Colombian painter/sculptor Fernando Botero was described as the living arts with the most exhibitions dedicated to him. Oops! Time to get to work and get to know this artist. This documentary filled in a lot of the blanks affording me the opportunity to see his work and learn about him.
Botero says at one point, “..can’t create something great without first being controversial.” Well, he is controversial. Not because he paints violence or sex or the like, but rather because he is adored by the public and treated unfairly by the art world. His paintings have been described as recession proof because no matter the economy people have continued to buy them. While at the same time art critics have been harsh. It is almost as if they look down their noses at commercial success. Punish him because during his lifetime his paintings have sold and made him money.
I have always thought that art is about communication. Communication is always most effective when you reach as many people as possible. That is exactly what Botero is all about. Art for the masses. Art that is accessible. Art that is nice to look at with all its colour.
Botera, as an artist – painter, sculptor – stands alone. You cannot really put him into any art niche or category. One was actually made for him called Boterism. It meant to create colourful paintings filled with fuller figured humans that also had elements of humour or even political criticism in them.
Born in 1932 in Medellin, Colombia, his father died when he was four. His mother was a strict woman, who made a living sewing. She raised three kids on her own. Botero started to paint at a young age. His mother, and not many others, was supportive of his decision to make it a career. School did not really work out for him as he was thrown out when they thought he was a communist.
While still a young man he earned thousands of dollars for a painting he sold. This money allowed him to go to Europe to study. First he went to Madrid. Then went on to Florence where he was introduced to the Renaissance painters. Botero believed them to be the masters.
When he ran out of money he returned to Colombia. Began teaching at a university and there he met his wife. They moved to Mexico. While in Mexico he learned to use colour. His only desire was to paint better than everyone one in the world.
In the 1960s he moved to New York City. Continued to experiment with strokes, colours and lines. Not long after moving to NYC he and his wife divorced. They had three children. Unhappy in the Big Apple he left for Paris.
Botero was largely a figurative artist. This wasn’t en vogue. Art critics were harsh, but he never changed his style. Decided to stop painting for a full year in order to learn how to sculpt.
Next he married a woman named Cecilia. They had a son. Tragedy struck when his son died in a car accident. Botero himself was in the car and did not escape unscathed as his right hand was damaged. To cope with the death, Botero did a series of paintings of his son. Art was always his way of processing what was going on in his heart and mind.
In 1983 he bought a house in Tuscany. The same city as Michelangelo. There he met Sophia Vari. She was also an artist. They were soulmates.
Twenty five of his large scale sculptures were put in cities around the world – Paris, New York, etc. A generous man, he had collected art for 35 years when he decided to donate his entire collection (plus some pieces he bought afterwards) to Colombia. His collection included works by Chagall, Picasso, Bacon, and others.
His life is to paint and sculpt. Even at the age of 86 he continues to work in his studio in Monaco. His children believe that passion for what he does keeps him going and younger than his age. Botero himself believes that art’s function is to give pleasure. Has said that the greatest gift that the universe can give you is to show you your passion at a young age.
This film, directed by Don Millar, is comprised of several interviews with the artist today, stock footage of him from the past and interviews with his three adult children. All forms a clear picture of the man and the artist. The world’s most recognized living artist. Great opportunity as he is very humble and quite private, so usually does not like speaking about himself.