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Fernando Botero, Colombian artist famous for rotund and oversize figures, dies at 91

Fernando Botero, one of Latin America’s most celebrated artists, has passed away at the age of 91. The Colombian artist, known for his distinctive style, succumbed to complications arising from pneumonia at his home in Monaco, according to his daughter, Lina Botero.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro paid tribute to the iconic artist, saying, “Fernando Botero, the painter of our traditions and defects, the painter of our virtues, has died.”

Botero, who hailed from Medellín, Colombia, gained international fame for his paintings and sculptures, which often featured rotund and whimsical figures. His artworks frequently satirized the upper class of his homeland. Born to a traveling salesman and a seamstress, Botero once harbored dreams of becoming a matador. While he spent much of his life residing in Europe and the United States, he frequently returned to Colombia for creative inspiration. In honor of his passing, his hometown of Medellín has declared a week of mourning.

Botero’s artistic style is instantly recognizable, characterized by his portrayal of corpulent and slightly absurd figures that have given rise to the term “Boterismo.” His body of work features a wide array of subjects, including a Roman Catholic cardinal caught in slumber while clad in full clerical attire and a snake poised to strike the head of a woman posing for a family portrait.

In the later stages of his career, Botero shifted his focus to more somber themes, including drug violence in Colombia. In a tragic incident in 1995, guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) planted an explosive device beneath his bronze sculpture “Pájaro” (“Bird”) during an open-air concert in Medellín. The attack resulted in the loss of more than 20 lives and left over 200 individuals injured. Additionally, Botero created artworks depicting the victims of U.S. abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, explaining that they were the result of his indignation over the violations that had occurred.

Botero’s works achieved immense popularity, with some selling for millions of dollars. His art graced major museums worldwide, as well as prominent locations such as the Champs-Élysées in Paris and Park Avenue in New York. Botero’s influence and legacy are palpable in his hometown of Medellín and the capital city, Bogotá, where the Botero Museum stands as a testament to his enduring impact on the world of art.

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