Saturday, May 19, 2012

Botero's Reclining Woman with Drapery

Fernando Botero's work grabs one's attention with its immediacy, even in sculptural work which must have taken months to complete. His style is quickly recognizable in general. Here his sculpture Reclining Nude with Drapery from 2004 takes on the classical reclining nude. Executing his work in white Carrera marble, he invites comparison with the great masters of the Italian Renaissance. Unlike the old masters, Botero depicts full-bodied women, emphasizing both their femininity and their monumentality. In the geometric form of the woman, do I spot the influence of Fernand Leger?

Fernando Botero, Reclining Woman with Drapery, 2004, white Carrera marble

May 21, 2012:  SOLD AT $722,500 
Reclining Woman with Drapery, 2004. white Carrara marble 18 1/8 x 47 1/4 x 18 1/8 in. (46 x 120 x 46 cm) Signed "Botero" lower edge. This work is unique.O

PROVENANCE Galerie Hopkins Custot, Paris Private collection, United States Private Collection
EXHIBITED Paris, Galerie Hopkins Custot, Fernando Botero, March 24- June 5, 2004

“Botero’s works carry within themselves something enigmatic, restless, immersed in a climate of suspension. They reveal a singularly sweet and subtle irony; they prompt a smile, they win over the inquisitive gaze.” 

(R. Chiappini, "The Affirmation of an Inner Vision in the Fullness of Form", Botero: Works 1994-2007, Milan, 2007, p. 3)

Among the most celebrated visionaries of Latin American contemporary art, Fernando Botero has always considered himself a student of art history in all its variations. As a child in Medellín, he was transfixed by both the grandiose Baroque churches of the colonial era and by Mesoamerican pottery and imagery. In his young artistic mind, the splendor of the Baroque style, in all its hyperbolic proportions, mingled with the rounded contours and voluminous elegance of the early Latin American civilizations. Botero also developed an early appreciation for Pablo Picasso’s cubism, from which he learned the importance of choosing shapes and proportions based on intuitive aesthetic thinking, rather than on traditional means of artistic representation. His subsequent education in Europe, at the renowned Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, took him through the halls of El Museo del Prado, where he internalized Diego Velázquez’s command of larger-than-life portraiture and Francisco de Goya’s lush monumentality. Within a few months of his arrival in Europe he made his way to Italy, where he would later return to establish his life-long studio practice, and where the present lot, Reclining Woman with Drapery, was created.

The conceptual and aesthetic origins of the present lot harken back to this young Botero from the 1950s, the budding artist who set about exploring his predecessors with passionate energy and ambition. Botero’s work in sculpture owes a great deal to his early travels in Italy, where he studied Michelangelo’s expressive nudes and Bernini’s writhing bodies. They gradually taught him the importance of volume as a catalyst for sensuality and material presence, which stimulate the viewer’s intellectual and physical engagement. The geographical setting also had a considerable impact on the young artist’s practice: he found himself close to the legendary marble quarries of Carrara, the location of the purest white marble in Italy. Carrara harbors deep meaning for any artist wishing to take part in the age-old conversation about sculpture and human form—Michelangelo and Bernini, along with many of their peers, sought Carrara marble for their most prized sculptural creations.

Reclining Woman with Drapery occupies a prominent and influential place within Botero’s overarching artistic vision and body of work. As our eyes glide over the sinuous curves and expansive surfaces, we sense Botero’s desire for wild proportions coupled with a distinctly feminine grace and tranquility. He expertly uses fullness of form to enhance sensitivity in both his subject and his viewers. His woman is firmly, heavily present in space, and yet we know that she is perfectly at ease with her monumentality. She smiles softly as she languidly reclines, revealing the artist’s indomitable technical skill. Taking advantage of the incomparable quality of his medium, Botero makes the drapery melt in her hands, and as she gazes upwards her viewers appreciate a sense of subtle, placid movement. The illusion is enhanced by the way the light touches the marble, igniting her body before our eyes.

In his rendering of one of the most iconic subjects in the history of art, the artist has succeeded in marrying physical might with aesthetic equilibrium. The present lot tells us that while Botero remains a loyal student of his forbearers, he has developed an enchantingly unique personal style. Although immediately recognizable, this style lends itself to infinite reactions and interpretations. As such, Botero is renowned for his ability to simultaneously incorporate countless different attitudes and moods within his work. His paintings and sculptures can at once be humorous and tragic, sensual and grotesque, playful and serious. By way of his aesthetic approach and technical expertise, he manages to both break and uphold the rules of classical art. Reclining Woman with Drapery is a witty reference to the past and a serious testament of revered natural form and grace. Through the voluminous contours of her body, Botero manifests his creative individuality while 
mastering the language of art historical allusion.

[End of Phillips auction listing]
Fernando Botero, Reclining Woman with Drapery, 2004, white Carrera marble

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