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

The Bathroom

Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
The Bathroom
signed and dated 'Botero 95' (lower right)
oil on canvas
51 ½ x 40 in. (130.8 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 1995.
Marlborough Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner 4 January 1997.
A.M. Escallon, Botero New Works on Canvas, New York, Rizzoli, 1997, p. 111 (illustrated in color).
C. Fuentes, Botero Mujeres, Bogotá, Villegas Editores, 2003, p. 134, (illustrated in color).
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Botero, Paintings, 23 October - 23 November 1996, p. 36, no. 4 (illustrated in color).
Further details
1 Fernando Botero, quoted in W. Spies, "'I'm the most Colombian of Colombian artists': A Conversation with Fernando Botero," Fernando Botero: Paintings and Drawings, Munich, Prestel-Verlag, 1992, pp. 155-56.
2 Fernando Botero, quoted in A. M. Escallón, “From the Inside Out: An Interview with Fernando Botero,” Botero: New Works on Canvas, New York, Rizzoli, 1997, 48.

Lot Essay

From Jan Van Eyck and Velázquez to Ingres and Manet, the European canon of art history has always been a rich source of inspiration for Fernando Botero. As a young aspiring artist, Botero traveled to Europe in the 1950s where he passionately studied first-hand Italy's Renaissance frescoes, Spain’s Golden Age masters and France's turn-of-the-century School of Paris. This early education spurred Botero’s life-long commitment to critically re-interpreting iconic paintings by the doyens of western art. For Botero, engaging with these formidable artistic precedents provided a gateway to true originality, as he explained, “You can take the same subject and create a totally different painting. That's where real originality lies, in taking something that's already been done by someone and doing it differently." [1]
In The Bathroom, a seemingly modest subject, Botero takes on one of western art’s most ubiquitous tropes—the female bather. From Titian and Rubens to Cézanne and Bonnard, the female bather has been reimagined by artists throughout the centuries. The Bathroom is Botero’s singular reinterpretation of this perennial theme. Unlike the bathing beauties that came before her, Botero’s woman is neither a Greek or Roman goddess nor a timeless ethereal nymph. Instead, this solid, monumental nude, is a decidedly twentieth-century, middle-class woman. Standing in nothing more than her bright red heels, filling almost the entirety of her diminutive bathroom, she is completely engrossed in combing through her hair and remains unaware of our voyeuristic gaze. Pulling back the curtain on the right, Botero adds an element of drama and intrigue to the scene, suggesting that we are watching a performance unfold in this tiny private space.
As in the best of Botero’s works, The Bathroom, harmoniously synthesizes a careful palette of repeating colors. The vibrant red of this woman’s shoes reappears in her painted nails, dangling earring and even the nob of the bathtub. The pale green wall above the tiles matches the water in her tub while the yellow liquid in the jar at left is of the same hue as the bath mat. Color here becomes a unifying and calming compositional device. This technique is of central importance to Botero, as he has explained, “I am interested in quiet color, not excited or feverish color. I have always considered that great art conveys tranquility and, in that sense, I seek that even in color.” [2] This approach to color differs dramatically from that followed by the French master Pierre Bonnard, the artist whose work most closely aligns with Botero’s bathers. Indeed, Botero dedicated a series of bather paintings to the elder Frenchman. In Bonnard’s The Bathroom, a modern nude stands in her high heels oblivious to the viewer’s voyeuristic gaze much like Botero’s own voluptuous redhead. Yet unlike Botero, Bonnard employs intense even jarring syncopated colors which activate the surface of the canvas, creating a decidedly disquieting effect.
While both an homage to art history and perhaps even to Bonnard himself, The Bathroom is also Botero’s catalyst for exploring the principles of color and form and a testament to his ability to transform the past into a distinctly modern vision.

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