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

The Tree (Tree with Bird)

Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
The Tree (Tree with Bird)
signed and dated 'Botero 78' (lower right and on the reverse) and inscribed 'To Heidi and Dieter only' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
69 1/4 x 75 in. (175.9 x 190.5 cm.)
Painted in 1978.
Heidi Brusberg collection, Berlin.
Quintana's Fine Art, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner (June 1985).
C. Ratcliff, Botero, New York, Abbeville Press Inc., 1980, p. 141, no. 114 (illustrated).
M. Paquet, Botero: philosophie de la création, Tielt, Ferragus, 1985, p. 89, no. 67 (illustrated).
E.J. Sullivan, Botero Sculpture, New York, Abbeville Press, 1986, p. 12 (illustrated).
G. Soavi, Botero, Milan, Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri, Bompiani, Sonzogno, Etas S.p.A., 1988, p. 203, no. 179, (illustrated).
G. Lascault, Botero - La pintura, Madrid, Lerner & Lerner Editores, & Paris, Editions Cercle d'Art, 1992, p. 286 (illustrated).
X. Xiaosheng, Fernando Botero, Jiangxi Art Edition, 1995, p. 32 (illustrated).
E. J. Sullivan & J.-M. Tasset, Fernando Botero: Monograph & Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings 1975-1990, Lausanne, Acatos Publisher, 2000, p. 276, no. 1978/41 (illustrated).
Hannover, Galerie Brusberg, Fernando Botero: Plastiken und Bildner, 15 October - 18 November 1978.
Marl, Skulpturenmuseum, Fernando Botero: Das Plastiche Werk, 24 November - 20 December, 1978.
Special notice
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Lot Essay

For more than six decades, Fernando Botero has passionately devoted himself to the study of volume and form. This lifelong pursuit has resulted in a unified body of work that is now immediately recognizable throughout the world. Whether painting, drawing or sculpting the human or animal figure, landscapes or still-lifes, Botero always plays with proportion and perspective, inflating his forms to an intentionally improbable magnitude. This singular style has solidified Botero’s place in the canon of art history and made him one of the most successful artists working today.

With its rotund shape, monumental size and distorted scale, The Tree eloquently expresses Botero’s aesthetic principles. Rather than rendering the angularity of branches, the irregularity of gnarled bark or the tumult of twisted leaves, Botero presents a tree of his own imagination; in place of a dry trunk we find a succulent green stem that supports a canopy of soft green pom-poms for leaves. As a Boterian invention, this plump tree spreads outward rather than soaring upward, emphasizing its width rather than its verticality. It seems we are meant to believe this to be an apple tree as a few green fruits drop from its limbs, yet the tropical parrot perched on an upper branch confirms that this can only be a fantasy apple tree. Appearing here for one of the first times in Botero’s oeuvre, this little bird and the falling green apples would become recurrent images in the artist’s whimsical world. The tree itself would be a subject to which Botero would return to over the years, suggesting that it held a particular significance for him. While allowing him to explore the possibilities of volume beyond those found in his favored subject—the human form—the solitary tree may also be a subtle homage to the famous The Oak of Flagey by the nineteenth-century master Gustave Courbet. A great admirer of the Realist French artist, Botero would likely have been familiar with one of his predecessor’s most renowned paintings. Botero’s oeuvre is indeed rife with reinterpretations of the European masters, see for example lot XX Homenaje a Bonnard, yet The Oak of Flagey, if indeed Botero’s art historical source for The Tree, appears more as a point of departure for the artist. Rather than taking on the layers of historical meaning that have been read into Courbet’s painting, Botero tackles the powerful physicality of the tree. Much like Courbet’s majestic oak, Botero’s tree pushes up against the picture plane filling almost the entirety of the ample canvas, asserting its formidable presence. Similar not only in composition, these two trees are rooted in a common conceptual ground as well—imbued with dignity and grace, both trees convey the artist’s profound reverence for his subject.

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