Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
Fernando Botero (b. 1932)

The House

Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
The House
signed and dated 'Botero 95' (lower right)
oil on canvas
61 ½ x 46 ½ in. (156.2 x 118.1 cm.)
Painted in 1995.
Acquired directly from the artist.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Botero, New Works on Canvas, New York, Rizzoli, 1997, p. 143 (illustrated in color).
Fernando Botero, Works on Paper, Paintings, and Sculptures, New York, David Benrimon Fine Art, 2009, p. 75, no. 25 (illustrated in color).
Fernando Botero, Works on Paper, Paintings, and Sculptures, New York, David Benrimon Fine Art, 2010, p. 69, no. 33 (illustrated in color).
Fernando Botero, Works on Paper, Paintings, and Sculptures, New York, David Benrimon Fine Art, 2014, p. 73, no. 31 (illustrated in color).
F. Grimberg, Selling Botero, Milan, Silvana Editoriale S.p.A., 2015, p. 287 (illustrated in color).
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Botero, Paintings, 23 October-23 November 1996, p. 55, no. 27 (illustrated in color).
London, Opera Gallery, Fernando Botero, 2015, p. 28 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

“I paint Colombia the way I want it to be,” Botero once reflected. “It’s an imaginary Colombia—like Colombia but, at the same time, not like it…It’s a kind of nostalgia.” Since his departure for Europe in 1952, Botero has drawn from myriad art-historical sources—Titian and Velázquez; Giotto and Masaccio; Rubens and Ingres—and embraced the classical sensuality of volume, space, and color in his now eponymous figures. His subjects have encompassed Colombia’s military junta and Abu Ghraib, Catholic clergymen and the bourgeoisie, and yet the idealized world of Medellín, his birthplace, remains a touchstone. Botero insists that he is “the most Colombian of Colombian artists,” and his affection for his country knows no bounds.[1] “The artist’s first twenty years have an enormous visual repercussion on the evolution of his work,” he explains. “It appears that nostalgia for certain moments of his life will come to the fore. One always paints what is best known, and it is rooted in childhood and adolescence. That is the world I paint. I have done nothing else.”[2]

“His artistic universe is constructed with memories of his childhood, and as a young man,” John Sillevis has observed. “The families in the provincial towns in Latin America lived their lives with strict rules: the men were well groomed, they wore a suit, a tie, and a hat when outdoors, and the women also were ladylike, with gloves, handbags, and flowery dresses. The children were well behaved and disciplined. The pleasures of daily life were—and are—predictable: an outing in the country with a picnic basket, a visit to a bullfight, a walk through the narrow streets with colorful houses in colonial style, or a romantic night of ballroom dancing…. It means working hard to keep up appearances in a society where even vice has a certain conformity. The men in Botero’s paintings may be good fathers and kind husbands, but they are also macho individuals who are familiar with the girls in the local brothels.”[3] This vanishing local sensibility wafts through Botero’s paintings of scenes and drolleries from everyday life, which present a microcosm of South American customs with characteristic humor and endearment.

A vignette of olden Colombian mores, The House describes a traditional family group: a man in suit and tie leaves the home as his family peers out behind windows and door; an older woman watches from a rocking chair perched on a balcony above, a dog from the cobblestoned street. Only the vultures perched atop the tiled roof and the surreptitious high-heeled shoe peeking around the corner of the house hint at something untoward. The home is nestled within the Andean foothills, rendered in what Botero has called a “mini-hill landscape” just visible at the left of the canvas; the miniaturized green hills represent “another way of expressing freedom in the proportions I set up between my elements, just the way the painters of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries did.”[4] Botero has long taken poetic license with size and scale, and The House is a study in dramatic distortion: the man’s height reaches to the second story of the house, the rocking chair is of dollhouse dimensions. “There is creative freedom in the case of improbable things,” he acknowledges. “Anytime I have to invent something for the purposes of composition, I am free to do so. Now, I never make a brush stroke unsanctioned by the history of art.”[5] While Botero is best known for his reinventions of the Old Masters, in The House he pays subtle homage to The Street (1933), a painting by Balthus—another sui generis modern artist and noted admirer of Piero della Francesca—that scandalized the public with its frozen figures and sexual allusion.

“Botero has left his own personal seal on this world, radically changing it in the process,” the Peruvian writer and intellectual Mario Vargas Llosa has observed. “Above all, as we have seen, he has inflated it, emptied it of psychology and paralysed it. Not only has he removed it from time, but also from violence, the misery and the struggles that, in the real world, are the counterweight to idyllic village life. Botero’s world gives the impression of peace and stability; no excess seems conceivable in this sleepy atmosphere. It is a compact, non-fragmented, aseptic, self-confident world that, in contrast to the chaotic, disturbed and irrational worlds of contemporary artists, proposes serenity and logic, an everyday order, love and confidence in life, and a sense of elegance and decoration that are classical.”[6]

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

1 Fernando Botero, quoted in Werner Spies, “‘I’m the most Colombian of Colombian artists’: A Conversation with Fernando Botero,” Fernando Botero: Paintings and Drawings (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1992), 158.
2 Botero, quoted in Ana María Escallón, “From the Inside Out: An Interview with Fernando Botero,” Botero: New Works on Canvas (New York: Rizzoli, 1997), 10.
3 John Sillevis, “Botero’s Baroque,” in The Baroque World of Fernando Botero (Alexandria, Va.: Art Services International, 2006), 29.
4 Botero, quoted in Germán Arciniegas, “An interview with Fernando Botero,” Fernando Botero (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1977), 54.
5 Botero, quoted in Escallón, “From the Inside Out,” 30.
6 Mario Vargas Llosa, “A Sumptuous Abundance,” in Fernando Botero (Stockholm: Moderna Museet, 2001), 22.

More from Latin American Art

View All
View All