DescriptionFernando Botero (b. 1932)
Seated Man, 2000
Oil on canvas
15-1/2 x 12-1/4 inches (39.4 x 31.1 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: Botero 00
Marlborough Gallery, New York, acquired from the above in 2000;
Private collection, acquired from the above in 2001.
The Colombian painter and sculptor has taken up an impressive amount of real estate in the annals of 20th-century South American painting; it's fitting, then, that his proudly portly subjects also command the spaces in which they sit, dance, romance, and cavort. While he's often typecast as a maestro of larger bodies, Botero--who is himself almost reedy in comparison to his characters--has always maintained that his true goal is the depiction of "volume," fleshy or otherwise.
This 2000 canvas hits all the registers that have made Botero that rare combination: a crowd-pleasing household name whose paintings more than hold up to critical scrutiny. Many of Botero's works focus on families, or couples, but the figure of a solitary man at rest is one that the artist has returned to at various times over his career. These gentlemen are pensive, and a little awkward; they are, invariably, clutching cigarettes.
This Seated Man also provides the opportunity to revel in how the magic of "Boterismo" isn't just about the exaggerated human form. Here, the artist lingers lovingly over small details, like a discrete still life (a bottle, a glass of juice or alcohol) set atop a table whose cloth's drapery is as plumply evocative as any extravagant folds of flesh. The man himself is an odd mix of the comic and the tragic--his hat a bit too tiny, his little blue tie truncated, almost child-sized. Yet he's also refined: notice the way the carefully manicured orbs of his fingernails mirror the metal grommets of the chair upon which he sits, and the fasteners of the red suspenders peeking out from his blazer.
Many of Botero's subjects are stiffly posed, staring out at the viewer, as if uncomfortably sitting for the artist and waiting for the experience to be over. This Seated Man is more casual, yet not completely relaxed-he looks, anxiously or wistfully, at something out of the frame. He has yet to light his cigarette. We find him, perhaps, at the tail end of a punishing day at the office: unwinding, but not yet unwound.
Botero is also an exquisite, exuberant colorist, and in this sense Seated Man is pure pleasure. If the man's own workaday garb is a drab, earthy brown, he's saved by the delight of his surroundings. Tonal echoes abound: between the man's drink and his shirt; between the robin's egg blue of his tie and the similar tone of the chair. His apartment itself is almost alive, its rich pink wall and dark green door perfectly in balance (and subtly recalling the flesh and rind of a watermelon, another favorite Botero subject). The humble home of this anonymous man has the thrilling, color-blocking electricity of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. As is Botero's wont, this Seated Man is a joyful contradiction, simultaneously ridiculous and quietly heroic.
More information about Fernando Botero, also known as Botero, Fernando, .
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