Three Colombian Artists

Hello! Yes… we are nearing the end of our virtual trip to Colombia and today I wanted to learn about the most famous visual arts artist from Colombia.

Fernando Botero

This artist is Colombia’s most famous artist. He was born on April 19, 1932 in Medellín. That’s right… he celebrated his 91st birthday today! His signature style depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume now known as “Boterismo” and it is recognized all over the world.

Cr. Lasemana. com

In 1948, Botero at the age of 16 had his first illustrations published in the Sunday supplement of El Colombiano, one of the most important newspapers in Medellín. He used the money he was paid to attend high school at the Liceo de Marinilla de Antioquia.

At the age of 20, after winning second prize in Bogotá’s Salón Nacional de Artistas, Botero booked his passage on a boat to Europe, travelling with a group of fellow artists. During a year in Madrid he passed his days copying the Prado’s Old Masters. He then moved to Paris and on to Florence to study the Masters of the Italian Renaissance. Even though Botero was enrolled in art schools for periods during these early years, he considers himself to be primarily self-taught.

Fernando Botero – Mona Lisa, Age Twelve, 1959, oil and tempera on canvas.

He has had more than 50 exhibitions in major cities worldwide, and his work commands selling prices in the millions of dollars. Some critics call his work childish and commercial. His style is often described as Naive. So how and why does he create such volumetric figures? He has said in interviews that he admired the volume given to paintings and sculptures during the Renaissance by artists like Michaelangelo.

In the words of the artist, “I rationalized the importance of volume because I saw that all Italian painters like Michelangelo, Raphael, Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca made a celebration of volume. He felt that volume was a very neglected and forgotten element in art.

So now let’s enjoy some of his paintings based on other artist’s famous works:

Recreating Raphael’s Pope Leo X. Cr. sundayeveningartgallery. com

Recreating portraits by Piero della Francesca. Cr. sundayeveningartgallery. com

After the Armolfini portrait by Van Eyck. Cr. sundayeveningartgallery. com

These are Botero’s own creations. He has so many it was hard to choose.

Picnic on the mountains. 1966
Archangel, 1966
Dancing in Colombia. 1980.

During the 1990’s and early 2000’s Diego used his art to express the violence in Colombia. In 2004, Botero exhibited a series of 27 drawings and 23 paintings and later donated the works to the National Museum of Colombia, where they were first exhibited. The following paintings are from this time:

The death of Pablo Escobar. 1999 Cr. sundayeveningartgallery. com
Car bomb. 1999. Cr. Google. com

In 2005, Botero gained considerable attention for his Abu Ghraib series, which was exhibited first in Europe. He based the works on reports of United States forces’ abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War. Beginning with an idea he had on a plane journey, Botero produced more than 85 paintings and 100 drawings in exploring this concept and “painting out the poison”.  He used his art as way to protest this violation of Human Rights.

The series was exhibited at two United States locations in 2007, including Washington, DC. Botero said he would not sell any of the works, but would donate them to museums. In 2009, the Berkeley Art Museum acquired (as a gift from the artist) 56 paintings and drawings from the Abu Ghraib series, which can be seen online. Selections from the series have been regularly included in the museum’s annual Art for Human Rights exhibitions. If you want to see them just prepare yourself, as they are heart breaking and go HERE.

Toend this part of my post about Botero here is a look at some of of his sculptures:

Cat, 1990, Barcelona, Spain. Cr. Wikimedia Commons
Woman with Mirror, 1987, Madrid, Spain. Cr. Wikimedia Commons

In response to the Colombian peace process, Botero sculptured and donated La paloma de la paz (2016) to the Government of Colombia to commemorate the signing and ratification of the agreement:

Happy Birthday Fernando! I hope you got a really delicious voluminous cake of your favorite flavors! ^ ^

Beatriz Gonzales

Beatriz González was born in Bucaramanga, Colombia in 1932.  She studied Fine Arts at the University of Los Andes in Colombia.

González grew up in Colombia during the 1940s and 50s, while the country was plagued with violence and war due to the social and political upheaval known as La Violencia. Growing up during this time largely influenced González’s understanding of Colombia society, and eventually even her artistic style.

Although González is often referred to as an artist of the pop art movement, she has never considered herself a pop artist. She identified more with expressionism.

When asked if she had at any point considered herself a pop artist she responded with, “I’ve always considered myself more of a painter and within this remit I painted the joy of the underdeveloped. For me the type of art that I was doing could only circulate internationally as a curiosity. Mine was a provincial type of art without horizons, confronting the everyday: art is international.”

Her work was presented in an exhibition for the first time in 1964 in the exhibit The Lacemaker, by the Dutch painter Jan Vermeer. Her work characterized by bright colors, and harmonic planes compositions.

The Lacemaker by Beatriz Gonzáles, 1964

In 1965, came the variations on La niña-montage, in which he reaffirmed his chromatic refinement. Based on a press photograph, she made two versions of the work Los suicidas del Sisga with which won the second special prize in Painting at the XVII Salón de Artistas Nacionales in 1965.

Cr. El Expectador

In the 1970s, she began her work on various pieces of store-bought furniture that would generally be found in middle-class households earlier in the century. Typically she would take her images from well known Italian Renaissance and history paintings, or pictures from the present day news media, transferring these images onto cheap nightstands, chairs, coffee tables and beds painted by an amateur painter.

Se portrayed herself as a mother in this painting.

Starting in the 1980s, after the seizure of the Palace of Justice and the recruitment of her son by the army, her work focused on pain: “the press is temporary, in a certain way the artist’s job is not to allow death and pain to be forgotten. According to her testimony, whenever she felt discomfort with what she was painting, she made ethical corrections to his work.

One particularly compelling aspect of González’s work was her use of reproduction as a means of protest—specifically in pieces where lo-fi production creates a sort of inside joke, as if the work is pretending not to be as smart as it is. In 1983, for example, González reproduced over 500 copies of two images—Zócalo de la tragedia (Baseboard of Tragedy) and Zócalo de la comedia (Baseboard of Comedy)—and pasted them across Colombia’s capital of Bogotá. In a recording for MoMA, González said she chose street posters because it put her work in the public eye.  It was her way to protest these terrible events.

This painting depicts President Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala bestowing an honor on a diplomat.

The following painting was based on a clip from a newspaper about a veteran that killed someone’s wife then killed himself:

During the 90’s and into the 2000’s Beatriz continued to tell the terrible events happening in Colombia her art a witness of the times. The following painting relates to the more than 1000 bodies thrown into rivers all over Colombia by the guerilla and government. It depicts a drown person casually passing by as women are bathing:

La Pesca Milagrosa /Miraculous Catch of Fish, 1992

Beatriz Gonzales is 90 years old and still active!

Alejandro Obregón

Obregón was born in Barcelona, Spain on June 4th of 1920. He was the son of a Colombian father and a Catalan mother. He was raised partly in Barranquilla Colombia and partly in Liverpool, UK. After deciding to become an artist he moved to Boston, US to study Fine Arts in 1939. then returned to Barcelona to serve as Vice Consul of Colombia for four years. He married Ilva Rasch-Isla, the daughter of poet Miguel Rasch-Isla, during his time in Spain.

Obregón presented his first solo exhibition in Colombia in 1945. He participated in the fifth and sixth Salón de Artistas Colombianos in 1944 and 1945, which attracted attention from press and critics. In 1945, Obregón settled in Barranquilla where he won the first prize for Dorso de mujer at the first Salón Anual de Artistas Costeños and showed his second solo exhibition in February 1946.

Self Portrait, 1943

During the same year, he moved to Paris and exhibited work throughout France, Germany and Switzerland.Then he moved to Alba, near Avignon, where he remained until 1955. A painting from that year, Still Life in Yellow, shows that his personal style was fully developed, with the formal elements that came to characterize his work. In 1955, Souvenir of Venice (1954) was acquired for the Museum of Modern Art New York, making Obregón one of the few Colombians in the museum’s collection.

Souvenir of Venice, 1954.
Stilllife in Yellow, 1955.

Obregón took influence from European culture, while retaining an Andean imagery and stylistic creation, using guitars, bulls, and the Andean condor in his pieces. In 1959, Obregón painted his first condor, which has since appeared in almost fifty canvases during his career. While alluding to the nation, as the condor figures in Colombia’s coat of arms, in Obregón’s work, the condor also refers to the exaltation of the might of American nature, the ideal of liberty, and the power of vitality.

Condor de los Andes, 1958.
La violencia, 1962.

He was witness to the popular revolt of April 9, 1948, and became especially interested in interpreting that event, which would reach its maximum expression in his oil Violencia.

La Violencia is considered to have begun with the assassination on 9 April 1948 of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a Liberal Party presidential candidate and frontrunner for the 1949 November election. His murder provoked the Bogotazo rioting, which lasted ten hours and resulted in around 5,000 casualties. Alejandro saw many of the people that died that day including Gaitán and was so shocked that and ran to his studio and captured in his drawings many of the things that impacted him of the corpses. The painting was based on a pregnant woman he saw that day. (5) It was the first time that he painted live as history was happening around him. The final painting was the result after years or tormenting attempts. (Notice the date of the painting in contrast to the date of the event.)

Another painting from this time is El Velorio (The Wake), also known by El estudiante (The Student). El Velorio refers to a specific event that happened on June 8 and 9 of 1954; a student uprising at the National University against the dictatorship of President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla resulted in the massacre of thirteen students by army forces.

El Velorio / The Wake, 1956.

This painting was awarded the national prize for Colombia at the 1956 Guggenheim International Exhibition.

After 1966, once he earned wide recognition at home and abroad, he switched from oils to acrylic.

Toro Condor Arpia, 1979.

In 1982, Alejandro painted a mural-sized acrylic for the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Barranquilla. In it he depicted a scene from the legend of the alligator man. Entitled Se va el caimán it means ‘The Alligator Goes.’

Se va el caimán,  1982.

Obregón died on April 11, 1992, succumbing to a brain tumor. He lived and worked in Cartagena for the last 22 years of his life, from 1970 until his death in 1992.

Alejandro Obregón was the artist that inspired me the most to create the Angel of Colombia. This painting was the one I liked the most:

Victoria de la Paz, 1982.

Isn’t it beautiful! The condors, the doves, the flag in her hair! The movement in this paining!!!

I also loved the yellow and purple in this related one:

Victoria para la paz, 1983.

And this last one is like an angel:

I found it in Pintarest, sadly no mention of the year and it seemed to be the cover of a book for a bank.

Well I hope you enjoyed the art of these incredibly talented and dedicated Colombian artists.


(1) Wikipedia Fernado Botero, Beatriz Gonzales & Alejandro Obregón





1 Comment

  1. Excelente, como siempre, tu post sobre artistas colombianos. Por supuesto el más destacado y famoso es Fernando Botero. Conocí su trabajo desde sus inicios y he tenido la oportunidad de ver varias de sus exposiciones. Me gustó mucho el resumen que de su vida y trabajo artístico haces.
    He disfrutado mucho este viaje virtual por el hermano país de Colombia y estaré muy pendiente del próximo viaje.
    Muchas Gracias

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s