Over the past six decades, Fernando Botero has produced a clearly defined body of work that is immediately recognizable by its iconic rotund figures representing distinct types of people. While colorful characters like the circus-performer, bullfighter and prostitute are among Botero's favored types, the traditional family has also been a constant source of exploration for the artist. Indeed, when asked what he considered the most Latin American theme in his painting, Botero declared the family to be the subject "par excellence," further noting its significance for its formal possibilities, "I like it because the complex composition admits surprise solutions," as well as its historical resonance, "There is a beautiful history of family portraits in the history of art."  Such a statement synthesizes the essential principles of the artist's oeuvre, which is both steeped in the Old Masters he discovered while studying in Spain and Italy in the 1950s and informed by contemporary life in his native Colombia, all of which is woven together and rendered with careful attention to the formal qualities of his medium.
Whether European or Latin American, well-to-do or working-class, all of Botero's families perform established gender roles--as not only the subject but also the title of the present painting makes clear. Executed in 1969, Man Going to Work is an early example of Botero's investigation of the family, which depicts a father leaving for the office while his wife stays home with their child who is attended by a nanny. While a seemingly idyllic image of wealthy domestic harmony, as in all of Botero's work, the conventional is made strange through the artist's radical manipulations of proportion. Here, the husband is dwarfed by his colossal wife and daughter, who appear entirely too large for their well-appointed home. And, pushed to the edge of the picture plane, the house itself barely fits within the ample space of the extra-large canvas. Alongside this hyper-compressed home, a tiny white poodle sits; locking eyes with the viewer, he effectively draws us into his whimsical world, just as he does in the numerous later works by Botero in which he appears. In the distance, a volcano erupts, another leitmotif found in Botero's paintings, perhaps metaphorically suggesting the release of pent up pressure.
Man Going to Work dates from a transformative period in Botero's career. Having already developed his penchant for volumetric distortion, he began to refine his broad-painterly style of the 1950s and early 60s, resulting in a more polished brushwork that would come to define his mature oeuvre. Combining loosely rendered foliage with more tightly composed figures, Man Going to Work maintains hints of his earlier style while foreshadowing the direction of his later work. 1 Fernando Botero quoted in Ana María Escallón, Botero: New Works on Canvas, (New York: Rizzoli), 36.