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.
The artist’s first experiments with proportional manipulation began in the 1950s; while painting a still-life, he placed a disproportionately small sound hole in the body of a mandolin, instantly transforming the instrument into an object of mass and monumentality. “After that Mandolin,” Botero has explained, “my world began to expand. I went on to figures and soon was creating a formal universe that found its supreme expression in small detail.” 
By the 1970s, Botero’s fascination with volumetric distortion had extended beyond painting to include sculpture as well. As he explained, “For my entire life, I've felt as if I had something to say in terms of sculpture. It's a very strong desire...a special pleasure—that of touching the new reality that you create.” Indeed, all of Botero’s sculptures, from his earliest examples of small spherical heads to his present day representations of robust monumental men, women and children, are imbued with the artist’s genuine love and palpable enjoyment of creation.
Executed in 1977, Woman with an Umbrella and Man with a Cane is a superb early example of Boterian ideals coming to fruition in sculpture. The dapper gentleman and his elegantly dressed and carefully coiffed female companion appear as a study in rounded forms. Botero clearly revels in the sloping curves of the woman’s umbrella, conical hairdo and the soft undulations found in the chest, hips and thighs of both figures. The artist’s characteristic play of proportions is also on full display; by endowing the man with unusually small hands and a tiny cigarette, Botero emphasizes the mass and volume of his overall form.
As in so many of Botero’s works, the man and woman remain anonymous, meant to represent a specific type of person rather than an individual. All we know of these two is that they make a wealthy pair as they have all the right accoutrements that reflect their status—a bowler hat, cane and perfect pocket square for the gentleman and high heels and a fashionable frock for the lady. Endearing, yet also slightly humorous, this couple embodies Botero’s masterful ability to humanize rather than aggrandize his subjects, a quality not often found in the sculptural tradition, and one that has made his work relatable and relevant throughout a long and prosperous career.
1 Fernando Botero, quoted in A.M. Escallón, Botero: New Works on Canvas, (New York: Rizzoli, 1997), 23.
2 Fernando Botero, quoted in E.J. Sullivan, Botero Sculpture, (New York, 1986), 13.