Thursday, May 19, 2011

Modigiliani Portrait

Modigiliani Portrait to Feature in Bonhams Impressionist
& Modern Art Auction


Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait de femme. Estimate: £1.5-2.5 million. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Bonhams Impressionist & Modern Art auction on Tuesday 21st June will include an exciting selection of works by artists including Boudin, Modigliani, Chagall, Picasso, Renoir and Miro.

The current highlight of the sale is Portrait de Femme by the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani which was painted circa 1917-1918. Modigliani is renowned for his portraits of women, and this is a fine example which comes to the market from the Grace Vogel Aldworth Trust. It is estimated to fetch £1.5-2.5 million.

Nu, Etude pour ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (1907) by Pablo Picasso is also expected to generate a lot of interest. The watercolour and gouache study is one of a number of works that Picasso created in preparation for his finished masterpiece, and is recognisable as the figure on the lower right of the final composition. The study manages to communicate the sense of violent energy that Picasso's final picture stands for, and reflects the influence of African tribal art on his work. It is estimated to fetch £300,000-500,000. Other Picasso works in the sale include Tête de matador (£150,000-200,000), Femme nue assise (£165,000-175,000) and Personnages (£20,000-30,000).

A further highlight of the sale is L'Écuyère bleu au coq rouge by Marc Chagall. This watercolour and bodycolour work on paper displays the dream like and playful qualities prevalent in the artist’s work and is expected to sell for £60,000-80,000.

With their bright colours and sunny scenes, Carlos Nadal’s (1917-1998) works often prove popular at auction. He has been described as ‘the last wild expressionist of Spain’ and the influence of the Fauvist painters is evident in his paintings. Fenetre Ouverte has attracted a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000.

Another Spanish artist Oscar Dominguez (1906-1958), was influenced by Salvador Dali in his early works, but he later developed his own Surrealist style and experimented with automatism and decalcomania. Paisaje Cósmico or Cosmic Landscape, fuses the disparate elements of Dominguez’s personality and the concerns of the wider Surrealist group into one dreamscape. The realistic draughtsmanship of flowing lava pays heed to the volcanic eruptions and landslides that were part of the landscape of Dominguez’s homeland in the Canary Islands, yet the composition itself is rich in the spirit of Surrealist automatism. The painting was initially owned by Eduardo Westerdahl, the main patron of the small Surrealist movement in the Canary Islands, and it is estimated to fetch £100,000-150,000.

Deborah Allan, of Bonhams Impressionist and Modern Art Department comments, “We are delighted to be offering a selection of important Impressionist and Modern art works for sale in our forthcoming 21st June sale, and expect there to be a lot of interest from around the globe.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A French Kitten in Summer 2011 on the Cote d'Azur

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sherrardswood_The Best Of DAYS_1965 to 1968_Pt_2

Friday, December 10, 2010

Exhibition of Works by Painter Amedeo Modigliani Opens at the Municipal House in Prague

Exhibition of Works by Painter Amedeo Modigliani Opens at the Municipal House in Prague


A visitor walks past a painting of Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani as he visits the Modigliani exhibition in Prague, Czech Republic, 09 December 2010. Unique exhibition of the works of the world-renowned early 20th-century Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani is open from 09 December 2010 to 28 February 2011 at the elegant venue of the Municipal House in Prague. EPA/FILIP SINGER.

PRAGUE.- The Municipal House opens a unique exhibition of the works of the world-renowned early 20th-century Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920), which will run from December 9 to February 28, 2011 at the elegant venue of the Municipal House in Prague. The organisers chose the artist’s own magically sounding name as the exhibition’s title. The exhibition aims to acquaint the public not just with Modigliani’s work, but also with the man himself and his life.

To complement the works of Amedeo Modigliani the exhibition will also show paintings by Modigliani’s friends and peers, such as Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, and Gino Romiti, and the last curatorial section of the exhibition will be a parallel display of the work of Amedeo Modigliani and the Czech artist František Kupka (1871-1957), whose paintings will be part of the Amedeo Modigliani exhibition.

The curator of the exhibition is Ms Serena Baccaglini, whose name has already been behind numerous important projects. She organised eight exhibitions about Picasso, the special collection Bosè/Dominguin, and an exhibition about Salvador Dalì. The AMEDEO MODIGLIANI exhibition will contain works on loan from public and private collections around the world, for instance, from the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem, the Estorick Collection in London, and from private collections in Germany, France and America. Thanks to cooperation with the Modigliani Institut Archives Légales in Rome original documents will be shown that illustrate the life of Amedeo Modigliani in the early 20th century during the wonderful years of the birth of contemporary art.

The exhibition presents Modigliani as an Italian artist, but it does not overlook that fact that in the early 20th century he was also an important figure of the ‘Paris school’. The exhibition will be showing Modigliani’s paintings, but also many of his studies and drawings, and thus it constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of Modigliani’s works as a whole. As will all geniuses, especially in the field of drawing, they reveal to us the beauty of his style and allow us to witness the first signs of the origin of an idea.

The exhibition will also present works by the famous Czech artist František Kupka. Serena Baccaglini came up with the new idea of showing side by side the works of these two artists, who exhibited together in 1912 as part of the Autumn Salon in Paris. Modigliani and Kupka were two great innovators in art, with similar life paths and bringing them together again, it is a new, magical, and exciting occasion. At the exhibition in 1912 Modigliani showed his sculptures, while Kupka presented his paintings Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colours and Warm Chromatics which can be regarded as the first real abstract works in history. Modigliani and Kupka are thus meeting up again for the first time in Prague, more than a century later.

The exhibition will also show some paintings by friends of Modigliani, with whom the artist lived through the inspirational period of the artistic avant-garde in Paris in the years before the First World War. Thus, we will be looking into the background of the time when modern art was born.

Thematically the exhibition will focus also on the artistic relationship between Modigliani and Jeanne and on questions that have left the figure of Modigliani shrouded in mystery. Jeanne Hébuterne, the love of the artist’s life, was the model for his best work. Those who love Modigliani will certainly recall his nudes and portraits with the typically elongated faces, almond eyes, long, sharp noses, and melancholy expressions. Unfortunately, a few days before Modigliani and Jeanne were to marry the artist died of tuberculosis at the age of just 36. Jeanne Hébuterne followed him soon after, as, unable to bear the loss of her great love, she jumped from the window of her parents’ home.

It is almost extraordinary that an exhibition of the work of this major artist has never taken place in the Czech Republic. Similar exhibitions, for instance, have been held recently in Milan, Madrid, and Bonn. Not long ago the National Gallery had two of the artist’s works on loan. The first major exhibition of Modigliani’s more important work to take place in Prague is thus only happening now.

The exhibition’s organiser, the director of Vernon Gallery, Monika Burian Jourdan, says of the exhibition’s significance: ‘I am only coming to realise the importance of the exhibition and its impact in a historical perspective just now, in the course of its preparation. For me Modigliani signifies elegance, mystery, success, and human tragedy. Amedeo Modigliani’s works possess an Italian charm that in a certain sense we can also feel from Prague architecture...’

The curator’s gusto and enthusiasm for the life and work of Amedeo Modigliani is enormous, and her energy and professional experience and ability promise art lovers a great exhibition experience.

On the exhibition Ms Baccaglini adds: ‘A great passion for Modigliani and Prague was a tremendous incentive to me to obtain special works that would allow us to encounter the great artist as a genius and as a man."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Colombian Fernando Botero's Matadors, Chile's Matta Top Latin American Auction at Christie's

Colombian Fernando Botero's Matadors, Chile's Matta Top Latin American Auction at Christie's


"Family Scene," by Colombian artist Fernando Botero

Colombian artist Fernando Botero's 2002 bronze sculpture, "Seated Woman," is pictured in outside Christie's in this undated handout photograph released on November 18, 2010. The piece drew $842,500 at Christie's Latin American art auction in New York on Wednesday evening. REUTERS/Christies Limited.

By: Walker Simon

NEW YORK (REUTERS).- A portrait of an infant matador and his bullfighting elders, painted by Colombian Fernando Botero, topped Christie's Latin American art sale, which also set auction records for postwar Brazilian, Colombian, Mexican and Argentine artists.

Botero's 1985 "Family Scene" of bullfighters fetched $1.7 million, the top lot of an $18.65 million sale on Wednesday evening, which also underscored strong demand for Chile's Matta, whose work bridges abstraction and surrealism.

Voluminous Boteros sold well. The corpulent bullfighters in "Family Scene" feature matadors in their finery, including a crawling toddler wearing a red tie and white stockings.

Botero's bronze "Seated Woman" sculpture sold for $842,500.

Matta's 1956 "S'Enroseer" and his 1942 "Untitled" also ranked as top lots, respectively at $866,500 and $842,500.

Matta taught budding U.S. abstract artists in New York, such as Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock.

Typical of his surrealist, abstract blend is the 1942 "Untitled," inspired by sprouting Mexican volcano Paracutin. It mixes dropped pigment with strokes of liquid color, centered on a fury of fiery reds, pea-like greens and sunbeam yellows.

Brazilian Adriana Varejao's "Paisagem Canibal" (Cannibal Landscape) set an auction record at $602,500.

Argentine Julio Le Parc's flickering early 1960s "Seuil de Perception, Continuel-lumiere-Mobile" set a record at $506,500. It consists of wood, metal, nylon strings and light bulbs.

Brazilian Helio Oiticica's "Mataesquema (Dois Brancos) fetched $362,500.

Colombian Alpio Jaramillo's blend of Cubism and social realism, "9 de abril," paints the fury and slaughter of the 1948 urban riots which convulsed Bogota after the assassination of a progressive presidential candidate.

The painting's sale for $110,500 marked the first time Jaramillo's work was brought to international auction.

Mexican Julio Galan's oil, ribbon and found objects on canvas, his 1992 "Mis Amigos Secretos" (My Secret Friends), set a record at $98,500.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A New Auction Record for Amedeo Modigliani at Sotheby's Evening Sale in New York


A Sotheby's employee discusses the merits of the painting "La Belle Romaine" by Amedeo Modigliani during a preview of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art auction in New York. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby's Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art is currently underway in New York and a number of exceptional prices have already been achieved:

· A new auction record for Amedeo Modigliani was set tonight when the artist’s iconic Nu assis sur un divan (La Belle Romaine) sold for a remarkable $68,962,500. Five different bidders competed for the stunning nude, driving the price well past the more than $40 million* that had been expected. La Belle Romaine is from Modigliani’s most important series of nudes, all painted circa 1917.

Other highlights thus far included two works sold tonight to benefit YoungArts, the core program of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA): Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, a spectacular canvas from Claude Monet’s iconic water lilies series which sold for $24,722,500 and Amedeo Modigliani’s Jeanne Hébuterne (au chapeau), one of the artist’s first major portraits of the muse that dominated his art in the final years of his life which brought $19,122,500.

Founded in 1981, YoungArts is the only national program that recognizes artistic excellence in 17- and 18-year olds by providing them with life-changing experiences that inspire their pursuit of the arts. YoungArts provides more than $500,000 in grants annually to support artistic endeavors and studies for these aspiring artists, and ensures that they will be exposed to mentors and tools that will lead them on a pathway to a serious career in the arts or prepare them for schools like Harvard, Juilliard, Carnegie Mellon or many others.
Amedeo Modigliani

Friday, August 27, 2010

Frank Gehry Presents Luma: Parc des Ateliers Project at Venice Architecture Biennale

Frank Gehry Presents Luma: Parc des Ateliers Project at Venice Architecture Biennale


US-Canadian architect Frank Gehry presents Luma, Parc des Ateliers project for Arles, France, at a preview of Venice Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy, 25 August 2010. EPA/ANDREA MEROLA .

VENICE.- The Parc des Ateliers in Arles is a model and a master plan for a new type of cultural utopia. Imagined, invented and designed as the ultimate cultural destination by artists, architects, art professionals and intellectuals, in accordance with local inhabitants who have an intimate knowledge of the town of Arles, it is an open campus for creative production, display, study and preservation. Photography and the moving image are its central force and innovative research and exchange are its ongoing mission. Aligned with the aims of the LUMA Foundation, its founding body, the Parc des Ateliers unites culture, education and the environment, and encourages a fruitful dialogue between disciplines and visions rich in contrast as vital elements of a forward-looking society. Located in the heart of the city of Arles and surrounded by the unique environment of the Camargue, it acts as a bridge between the industrial heritage and the UNESCO-protected historical core of this multifaceted city. It also recreates the public park that was once the meeting place of every layer of its population, and thus becomes a project for and with the people of Arles. The master plan was created in 2008; the estimated completion of the project is 2011.

The Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) and the city of Arles initiated a study for the economic and urban development of the area of the former SNCF railway garage, located in the very center of Arles. The final decision was to establish a cultural landmark. The LUMA Foundation – a non-profit, Swiss-based foundation, created in 2004 by art collector and philanthropist Maja Hoffmann, specializing in projects combining the environment, education, and culture – took the cultural vocation given to the site by the City and the Region one bold step further.

Joining this creative initiative are Actes Sud publishers and Les Rencontres d’Arles and with the initial observations of the ABF (Architecte des Bâtiments de France) and input from the ENSP (École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie), together they have contributed to the design of a visionary master plan for the area. The new regeneration project combines a vast cultural campus which offers exhibition and archive space, with an office and service building for Les Rencontres d’Arles, the publishing house Actes Sud, the school of photography ENSP, a cinema, commercial and residential areas and a hotel complex, and with the hope of adding over time a new train station, and a memorial museum for the railway workers. The building project will be set in a landscaped public garden.

The LUMA Foundation recruited Los Angeles-based visionary architect Frank Gehry, and Gehry Partners, LLP to create a landmark building to house the Foundation, and to create the master plan of the site. French real-estate giants Nexity are providing their expertise in terms of the commercial development and how it relates to the site planning.

A snapshot of this work-in-process can be seenat the Venice Biennale of Architecture and at the festival des Rencontres d’Arles with an exhibition of Frank Gehry and Gehry Partners, LLP’s models of the Parc des Ateliers

Monday, August 02, 2010

Stunning Nudes by Photographer Rankin at Annroy Gallery, London

Stunning Nudes by Photographer Rankin at Annroy Gallery, London


Lily Cole © Rankin Photography.

LONDON.- Rankin blurs the boundaries of fashion, photography and fine art in Painting Pretty Pictures, a collection of painterly studies of feminine beauty. Using digital retouching as a tool for artistic effect, stunning nudes of some of the world’s top models, including Yasmin Le Bon, Heidi Klum and Lily Cole, are transformed into apparent oil paintings.

Always keen to explore the limits of his chosen medium, Rankin reframes the debate surrounding the use of digital image manipulation, creating a new hyperreal aesthetic that merges fantasy and reality. With Gerhard Richter amongst his inspirations, Rankin departs from his trademark style, creating images which seem almost classical through the use of the latest imaging technologies.

Painting Pretty Pictures will run from 30th July – 29th August at Annroy Gallery, Rankin’s own Kentish Town gallery space.

Synonymous with dynamic and intimate portraiture, the photographer Rankin has shot everyone from royalty to refugees. His powerful images are part of contemporary iconography, and mix a cross section of his own personal interests with commercial campaigns, from Nike to Women’s Aid. His work is regularly exhibited in galleries around the world from Sao Paolo to Moscow, London to LA.

Rankin first came to prominence when he co-founded style bible Dazed & Confused with Jefferson Hack. One of the most important magazines of the 90’s, it established its stylists in the fashion elite, broke some of today’s top designers and nurtured the budding careers of a generation of creative photographers.

Earning a reputation for creative portraiture and a talent for capturing the character and spirit of his subjects, Rankin quickly became a formidable force in photography, shooting Brit-pop bands including Pulp and Blur and darlings of pop such as Kylie and Madonna. Rankin’s career continued to blossom and covers for German Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Arena and GQ quickly followed.

His body of work includes some of the most influential politicians, popular musicians, revered artists and celebrated models since the early 90’s. However, Rankin also continues to take on projects that feature ordinary people, often questioning established notions of beauty, causing controversy and igniting debates along the way. Most recently he travelled to Johannesburg with the BBC to film South Africa in Pictures, a documentary in which he traced the country’s photographic history.

Rankin is affiliated with a number of charities and has created hardhitting campaigns for Women’s Aid and Oxfam to name but a few.

A number of books of Rankin’s work have been published, including a retrospective of his work Visually Hungry, a collection of his most recognisable portraits Celebritation, a book of Rankin’s images of his model wife Tuuli Tuulitastic, Alex Box, a collaboration with the avantgarde make-up artist and a book to accompany the BBC documentary, RANKINJOZI.

Between 2004 and April 2010, Rankin has co-directed music videos, commercials and feature films with Chris Cottam. This included their debut film The Lives of Saints, penned by Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas writer Tony Grisoni, which enjoyed success on the festival circuit and won the grand jury prize at the Salento International Film Festival. Rankin now continues to film commercial and personal projects independently.

Rankin lives in London with his wife Tuuli and his son Lyle.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

IVAM Opens First Exhibition in Europe by Chinese Artist Wang Xieda

IVAM Opens First Exhibition in Europe by Chinese Artist Wang Xieda


Chinese artist Wang Xieda poses between his sculptures 'Sages's Saying 013' (L) and 'Sages's Saying 058' (R) at an exhibition on his work organized by the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) in Valencia, Spain, 27 July 2010. The exhibition, that was inaugurated today and can be seen until 29 August, shows 12 sculptures and 14 drawings of the Chinese artist for the first time in Europe. EPA/MANUEL BRUQUE.

VALENCIA.- The exhibition presents for the first time in a European museum this artist's work brings together 12 sculptures and 14 drawings Xieda Wang's calligraphy, Chinese artist who combines in his works the influence of calligraphy in the Eastern tradition and contemporary currents of Western art .

This is the first exhibition of the Chinese artist Wang Xieda in an European museum. It consists of 14 drawings and 12 sculptures that shows his artistic production. This production allows us to appreciate the expressiveness of the artist who moves away from figurative tradition and from the limits of the traditional artistic structures. His work conceptually goes into new sculptural techniques. Wang Xieda's work combines classical techniques using ink and paper from the traditional calligraphic arts with an sculptural abstraction reminiscent of western avant-garde.

The catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition shows the exhibited works and publishes texts about the artist written by Consuelo Císcar, the IVAM's director, by the director of the Z-Art, Centre of Shanghai, Gong Yunbiao and by the exhibition's curator Li Xu. It also includes a chronological biography of the artist.

Wang Xieda (Liaoning, China 1968) is an atypical sculptor who exhibits his drawings and large works made with rice paper and charcoal on canvas. His bronze moulds can remind western spectators of the attenuated and "drawn" forms in the space of Giacometti and David Smith. However, Wang Xieda's sculpture derives, as it is said, from Wang Xizhi, the calligraphic master of the fourth century. The transformation of the two-dimensional works into three-dimensional ones is analogue to the use of his own drawings that have 1.2 meters height. Those works are the starting point of his smaller sculptures: abstract representation of bulls, birds and human figures. They are also a vivid reminder of the fact that the drawings can provide a closer and more intimate perspective of the artist's thoughts and sometimes, it can be an opportunity to approach the unconsciousness.

In the last twenty years, Wang Xieda, who lives and works in Shanghai, has been devoted to the study of text and calligraphy. The artist isn't just an admirer of the ancient China, but an admirer of all the ancient civilizations of the world. After years of studying, he realized that many of the pictograms of the first human civilizations were similar. Pictograms were the common way to represent the nature synthesizing the abstract forms in simple metaphors. Lines are the communication language and the more basic and effective way of dissemination taking into account all the visual forms. Chinese characters, a kind of hieroglyphics' extension used during the human civilization, are still used today. Former Chinese characters began crystallizing during the Banpo phase 6000 years ago. The first textual system totally completed appeared in the Chinese history during the Shang Dinasty in the fourteenth century BC. Like in some other ancient civilizations, the original characters were based on representations of natural images. That leads to a theory about the traditional Chinese art which ensures that painting and calligraphy have the same origin.

Wang Xieda's recent works show an old style and an elegant pace, reminiscent of the aesthetic origins of the ancient civilizations. His sculptures and paintings create concise and unforeseeable moulds by using simple lines. Wang explores an abstract and purely aesthetic feeling through these visual forms, as for example with primitive totems and the first calligraphic symbols. He perfectly controls the harmony of the dimensions while creating a suitable space. A lot of spectators fall in love with Xieda's works due to the fact that spectators and author simultaneously see the eternal beauty of concision.

In contrast to the changes of the twenty-first century, cultural and national traditions should find a new and contemporary language in order not to get out of time regarding the aesthetic expressions. This is the only way for younger people to study and inherit the traditions voluntarily. As an artist, Wang Xieda has looked for a common artistic and human experience. His efforts aren't intended to repeat the past but to use the simplicity and extent of the ancient art in order to recreate it. What makes his art contemporary and timeless is the clear interpretation of the ancient language with the current syntax that he uses to express his experiences and feelings. We can see a natural and serene confidence in Wang Xieda's works even in difficult and variable environments, exemplified by his competent expression of the national aesthetic. This exhibition that takes place at the IVAM is the first individual exhibition of Wang Xieda out of his country. We hope that the work will be appreciated and understood by western spectators.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pera Museum Welcomes Colombian Artist Fernando Botero's First Encounter with Istanbul

Pera Museum Welcomes Colombian Artist Fernando Botero's First Encounter with Istanbul


Colombian artist Fernando Botero poses in front of his paintings "La Fornarina, After Raphael" (L) and "After Velazquez" at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, during a preview one day before the opening of his first exhibition in Turkey. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Colombian artist Fernando Botero poses in front of a self portrait at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, during a preview one day before the opening of his first exhibition in Turkey. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL.- Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum welcomed one of the most exceptional artists of the 21st century, Fernando Botero in İstanbul for the very first time with an exhibition comprising a selection of 64 works.

Botero’s art is not exclusively a narration or a representation, but brings with it the force of an inner vision, of his knocking on life’s door. Protecting his Latin and Colombian identity, Botero has succeeded forming his own style nourished not only by folkloric elements but also by the works of grand masters, and has poured his rich inner world into his works with a sophisticated, humorous and wise approach.

Botero has brought a new interpretation to the aesthetics of our times, and the exhibition depicts this interpretation in six sections – the circus, the bullfight, Latin American people, Latin American life, still lifes and versions from past masters of the history of art. The works of the artist contain many references to his own culture and life, and in a unique style they question the concept of beauty in our century.

From acrobats to matadors, dancing people to naked lovers, cardinals to sad clowns and to musicians, the exhibition invites us to discover Botero’s lyricism and his enchanting world.

Still Life
Still-life paintings play a crucial role in Botero’s work. By the end of the 60s they were regularly nourishing the seduction of an image that went beyond the simple composition of fruits or objects arranged on a table, often revealing a fully fledged world – a world rich and diversified, governed by well-entrenched rules.

“When I paint an apple or an orange, I know that it will be possible to recognize them as mine and that it is I who painted them, because I seek to give to every painted element, even the simplest, a personality that comes from a profound conviction.” Thus, for Botero the overriding issue is to confer an authentic image even to inanimate objects, to still-lifes.

In principle, the elements that make them up are enclosed in a restricted space, made even tighter by the presence of heavy tables that flaunt their rounded volumes and sizes as in Still Life with Lobster, and in the elegant Still Life with Fruits , where Cézanne’s influence is discernible in the studied complexity of the layout and in the abundant drapery that acts as a biding agent for the composition.

The claustrophobic sense of this “scenic cube” is often overcome by the inclusion, within the painting, of a reflecting mirror, or an opening that allows the gaze to look outwards. This is very clear in Still Life with Watermelon where Botero utilizes the reflections of the objects and the presence of a door on the background to lighten the architecture of the painting and to give it depth, and to create, not only chromatic balances (the blue of the jug with the blue of the sky) but also structural ones by focusing on the contemporary presence of horizontal elements on the foreground set against the verticality of the room.

It is but rarely that in Botero still-life paintings correspond to open air compositions such as in Picnic , which offers to the observer the possibility to admire landscapes, which are, indeed, very unusual for the artist.

One of the elements that best characterize Botero’s paintings is his ability to combine his original Latin-American culture, as nourished by the penchant for the hyperbolic and the fantastic, with the European one in an outstanding manner. Europe is obviously referred to through the much loved painting tradition of the likes of Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Leonardo, Mantegna, Velázquez, Goya, key reference points during his travels in Italy and Spain in the early 60s. It is the works of these masters that he will learn to admire in the halls of the Prado and the Louvre. These were successively flanked by Dürer and Rubens, Manet and Cézanne, as a testimony of the intellectual curiosity of Botero and his willingness to establish an ideal relationship with the great European art of the past and of the modern age, whose masterpieces have acted as beacons in the development of his art right from the outset. It is significant, in this light, his seeking inspiration, as early as in 1959, from Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.

The history of art is a broad and practically unlimited hoard of images to be ransacked but not imitated. Botero does not imitate: he recreates in his own way, producing images that demand their own autonomy.

His approach is surely not the imitation of the works of the masters or the mechanical replica of a model. What we have are full reinterpretations in which Botero wishes to pay homage, also by applying a dose of benevolent irony, to very famous paintings such as La Fornarina by Raffaello or The Arnolfini Wedding by Jan van Eyck, or Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. He thus recreates their spirit after many centuries by presenting them in contemporary terms and by aligning them to his original idea in terms of volume, space, sign and color.

“I dared painting the corrida (bullfight) because I was very much familiar with the theme. It is impossible to paint if there doesn’t exist a strong relation between the subject and one’s soul. This relationship is absolutely necessary inasmuch as it gives you a sort of moral authority. That authority I had for the theme, flowed out from the sangre (‘blood’) and from my own life.”

The bullfight was a theme that couldn’t be neglected in Botero’s work – a fascinating and highly suggestive theme that is deeply engrained in the tradition of his people.

Obviously, what truly mattered for Botero is not only the combat between man and bull but all that takes place around this laic ritual: from the ‘taking of the habit’ on the part of the protagonists celebrated in the splendid elegance of their costumes and seen as modern-day heroes, to the entry on horseback of the matadors and picadors into the arena with the crowd that throng the stands applauding their idols – everything seems to be part of an extraordinary popular pageant where the violence that is inherent in the bullfight itself appears to be alien or experienced in a natural way even when at its goriest as in Dying Bull (p.??). The attention of the artist is focused on the spectacular choreography rather than on the tension of the moment, on the blood that is poured on the arena.

As is his wont, Botero in these works relies on that felicitous process of contamination involving color and light, pictorial surface and substance itself of that kind of painting that underlie many of his painting, identifying himself with the theme to such an extent as to immortalize himself as a torero in the Self Portrait.

Botero fell in love with the circus in Mexico, where he often spent the winter months. It was there that he became enthralled by the characters that crowd the circus, loving the colors, the movement, the life and the stories that are the stuff of the circus show – a show both archaic and new that has been immortalized by artists of the calibre of Picasso, Léger, Chagall and many more.

“A truly beautiful and timeless subject,” Botero has often said. He stages, narrates and illustrates circus life to its fullest, highlighting the work of the circus hands as they get the show ready as in Circus (p.??), or focusing on those moments when everyone is taking a break before or after the show, when the members of the large circus family rest for a while and share a moment of relax and conviviality as in Circus People with Elephants (p.??). Botero, though, offers us, above all, a gallery of very beautiful portraits, from Pierrot to Harlequin, from the equestrienne intent on her show to the acrobat-cum-contortionist, from the lion and tiger tamer to the clowns on their highly improbable stilts, from the elephant to the horses and camels… Botero offers us a gaily-colored and kaleidoscopic universe. The characters are captured during their performance, with maximum concentration showing on their faces, while the scenes evoke the distillation of the moment as mirth blends and alternates with melancholy, which are both inherent to the circus show.

Botero, in fact, passes no judgment but simply describes in great detail without showing any indulgence or cruelty, and does not mock or ridicule. His images apparently amusing, funny and ironic reveal – for all those who are willing to go beyond a first cursory glance – meaning, and his circus suddenly becomes the great metaphor of life.

Latin American Life
In the works focusing on this subject matter, Botero insists on the vitality of man that cannot be extinguished even in the direst conditions of misery, in shantytowns, in places where life has no apparent reason… In Botero’s paintings there is a “people’s” background, a loyalty to his own Latin-American culture, a vivid memory of his childhood fancy.

No matter how much his style has been perfected and enriched through the contact with Europe, the characters of civic and private drama, the daily grind, the whorehouses, the dancing fetes, the priests and cardinals are and continue to be tenaciously present in his work.

Botero freezes on the canvas scenes from the daily life of Colombians – scenes often dramatic as in Street, where a runaway is being chased by the policeman amidst total indifference, or as in Suicide, where a desperate man plunges to his death from a window. While Botero also paints scenes of working life, such as the outstanding Sewing Workshop where each character is deeply intent on carrying out his or her task in an atmosphere of intense commitment, he also focuses his gaze on an instance of ironic meditation, as in The Seminary where five young priests are captured together as if posing for a rather unusual family portrait.

And, of course, there are moments of entertainment as in Dancing, where couples dance away in a dancing hall, or in the crowded and more problematic End of the Party where in the pink confetto atmosphere, life passes against a backdrop of sexual intercourse, music and cigarettes and where the much flaunted existential promiscuity is but a way to stress the inner solitude of the individual.

Latin American People
“You can find in my painting a world I got to know during my youth. It is a sort of nostalgia, which I have turned into the central theme of my work. […] I lived fifteen years in New York and a long time in Europe, but this has changed nothing in my Latin American approach, nature and spirit. The communion with my country is total.”

The points of reference for the young Botero were inevitably the multicolored boards and sculptures of colonial art, the direct and essential language of popular art and, with regards to the pureness of form, pre-Colombian art. These elements continue to be present in his paintings. They are the traits of a poetics that has refined over the years but which contain a cultural heritage that continues to be as spontaneous as ever, generating the same narrative force and impeccable finish.

A recurrent feature in this group of works is the single individual, mostly female figures, such as the stern Standing Woman, or the monumental girl of Woman in Bathroom. The posture of the women is memorable and so are their clothes and gazes. Through them, Botero is able to forcefully show their personality and to tell us something about their lives, thoughts and desires.

These are flanked by paintings featuring couples, such as Man and Woman, respectable middle-class persons who meet on the street almost as if it were a still from an early 20th century film, or Lovers , a man and woman who, naked, passionately embrace each other in a seedy hotel room.

Also impressive are the group subjects that reveal the sheer existential variety of a community: from the joyous mirth of At the Park, where the background provides a glimpse of sheer beauty, to Three Women Drinking which is dominated by sadness, and The Sisters, an outstanding work featuring five women of varying ages whose poses reveal their personalities as well as the lives they have led in what is a disenchanted portrait of an age.