A Candid Conversation with Fernando Botero: Unveiling the Master of Volume

A Candid Conversation with Fernando Botero: Unveiling the Master of Volume

Setting: A sun-drenched studio in Monaco, overflowing with vibrant canvases and sculptures. Fernando Botero, a giant of a man with a twinkle in his eye, sits across from me, a steaming cup of Colombian coffee in hand.

Int.: Señor Botero, it's an honor to be here. Your art has captivated the world for decades. The explosion of color, the captivating volume of your figures - what initially sparked this now-iconic style?

Botero: (Leaning back with a hearty laugh) It all began with a simple mandolin, believe it or not. As a young artist in Colombia, I was deeply influenced by the Italian masters – their sensuality, the way they imbued form with such life. One afternoon, while sketching a mandolin, I must have gotten lost in thought. When I looked back down, the sound hole was minuscule, almost comical. But the entire instrument, because of this distortion, seemed to pulsate with a newfound energy. It was a revelation! It showed me the power of manipulating scale and volume to create a whole new visual language.

Int.: That's fascinating. But some critics have a more...literal interpretation of your style. They describe your figures as "fat" or even "obese." How do you respond to such interpretations?

Botero: (A mischievous glint in his eye) Ah, yes, the question of volume! It always sparks a lively discussion. Let me put it this way – my figures are not about literal weight. They are about presence, about occupying space with confidence and embracing their sensuality. Think of Rubens, of Goya – their figures are full of life, overflowing with energy, and that's the essence I strive for in my work. It's not about obesity, it's about celebrating the human form in all its fullness.

Int.: That makes perfect sense. There's a certain joyfulness in your paintings, a celebration of life's exuberance. But is there also a deeper message, a social commentary embedded within?

Botero: Absolutely. Art is, after all, a reflection of life, and life is full of contradictions, of beauty and brutality existing side-by-side. While some of my paintings might appear whimsical and playful, others deal with very serious themes. The "Abu Ghraib" series, for example, was a visceral response to the harrowing events at that Iraqi prison. Art has a responsibility to bear witness, to evoke emotions, and to spark conversations.

Int.: That's a powerful statement. Looking back on your extraordinary career, what accomplishment brings you the most pride?

Botero: (A thoughtful silence descends) It's not about personal achievements or accolades, truly. What brings me the greatest satisfaction is the connection my art creates with people. When someone stops in front of a Botero, and their face lights up with joy, curiosity, or even anger – that's the ultimate reward. Art thrives on provoking a reaction, on sparking a dialogue between the artist and the viewer.
Int.: And you've certainly sparked a global dialogue. Your work graces museums worldwide, and you've even had the honor of sculpting a door for St. Peter's Basilica. How did that project come about?

Botero: (A wide smile) That was a truly unique experience! The commission came from Pope John Paul II himself, a man of great vision and appreciation for the arts. He wanted a door that reflected the joy and inclusivity of the Catholic faith. The resulting bronze sculpture, "The Gate of Forgiveness," depicts a group of doves – symbols of peace and hope – bursting forth from an archway. It was a privilege to contribute to such a historic site.

Int.: Beyond the grand museums and religious commissions, though, your art seems to connect with people on a very personal level. Is that something you strive for?

Botero: Absolutely. Art, at its core, is about human connection. It's about capturing the essence of what it means to be alive, to love, to suffer, to dream. When someone sees a piece of mine and feels a sense of recognition, a connection to their own experiences, that's when art transcends the physical and becomes something truly profound.


Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero


Fernando Botero Angulo (19 April 1932 – 15 September 2023) was a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor.His signature style, al ...