Death of Fernando Botero, the global Colombian artist

Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, famous for his voluptuous figures and considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, died Friday at the age of 91

Death of Fernando Botero, the global Colombian artist

Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, famous for his voluptuous figures and considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, died Friday at the age of 91.

“Fernando Botero, the painter of our traditions and our faults, the painter of our virtues, is dead,” Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced Friday on the X network (formerly Twitter).

According to his daughter Lina, Fernando Botero, born in 1932 in Medellin, in central Colombia, died in Monaco, where he lived, at 9:00 a.m. local time (07:00 GMT). His health had deteriorated in recent days, and he died of “pneumonia”.

"He is the most Colombian of Colombians because he always carried Colombia in his heart. Not only because he kept up to date with Colombian news, sensitive to the needs and areas in which he could help , but also because Colombia and its memories have nourished her artistic work,” she declared.

“He continued to paint until the end and again on Saturday,” she added, specifying that her father “suffered from Parkinson’s disease for several years”, which did not give him “tremors” but “ it was difficult for him to walk, communicate and swallow.”

From Friday morning in Bogota, onlookers gathered in front of one of the master's works, the imposing Man on Horseback, at the entrance to a park near the historic center of the capital, noted a photographer from the AFP.

Visitors also flocked with increased interest to the works exhibited at the Botero Museum, a stone's throw from Plaza de la Candelaria, in a Spanish colonial building housing around a hundred of his works.

The Colombian press hailed Friday in unison "the greatest Colombian artist of all time", the "universal" or planetary artist, and his hometown of Medellin declared seven days of mourning to "pay homage to the master (. ..) after a life full of works and a legacy which will remain forever in the hearts of all the inhabitants" of the city, indicated its mayor Daniel Quintero.

"We deeply regret the death of Maestro Botero, a great man of art, culture, but also a great man because of his love for Medellin, his love for Colombia, his love for Latin America. His work, his life, his legacy will remain in this city that he loved so much and in which he left so many works,” added the city councilor.

Various tributes, with flowers and music, will take place that same day in Botero Square, where 23 sculptures donated by the artist to the city in 2002 are exhibited, and which are admired by thousands of tourists every year.

According to the municipality's cultural department, "there will also be a wall where the public will have the opportunity to write different messages to the artist."

“Medellin will also dress in different places with the face of Fernando Botero”, while the city will offer “conferences, readings and actions aimed at commemorating and exalting the life and work” of the sculptor.

Still according to the municipality, the remains “of the Maestro will be buried in Pietrasanta, Italy, next to those of his wife Sophia Vari, a Greek sculptor who died on May 5” after 48 years of living together. A departure which caused him “infinite sadness” according to his daughter.

Politicians, men of culture, media... Everywhere in Colombia, there was a shower of tributes for the artist, author of more than 3,000 paintings and 300 sculptures.

“We deeply regret the departure of Fernando Botero, one of the greatest artists of Colombia and the world. He was always generous to his country, a great friend and a passionate peace builder,” declared on the X network l ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018).

Coming from a modest background, he was introduced to art very early and after a first individual exhibition in Bogota in the 1950s, he left for Europe, staying in Spain, France and Italy where he discovered art classic.

His career took off in the 1970s in New York, where he began to be contacted by the biggest art dealers.

The extraordinary dimensions will become its trademark.

For the artist, the term “fat” did not suit his characters. A lover of the Italian Renaissance, he called himself a “defender of volume” in modern art. His sculpture, also marked by gigantism, occupied a very important place in his career.

Fernando Botero was also a major patron, with donations estimated at over $200 million. He gave many of his works to the museums of Medellin and Bogota, and dozens of paintings from his private collection, including Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Miro...

His works are also visible outdoors in many cities around the world, the artist believing that exhibitions in public spaces are a “revolutionary rapprochement” of art with the public.

15/09/2023 19:50:17 -         Bogotá (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP