Fernando Botero The Unique Monumental Horse

Fernando Botero (b. 1932)

The Unique Monumental Horse


bronze, unique

177 ¼ x 161 ½ x 70 ⅞ in / 450 x 410 x 180 cm

4.96 tonnes


Waddington Custot is pleased to offer the unique monumental bronze sculpture, ‘Horse’ (2017), by internationally-renowned figurative artist, Fernando Botero (b. 1932, Medellín, Colombia). Botero is the most important Latin American artist in the world today, and has enjoyed a career lasting over six and a half decades. His highly sought-after works have achieved record-breaking sales in auction and the colourful world which Botero depicts, appears ebullient and sumptuous, but underneath, it is saturated in social satire and steeped in art history.


At the age of nineteen, Botero was awarded second place at the 9th Salón Nacional de Artistas, Bogotá, in 1952, and used the prize money to travel to Europe where he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. By the late 1950s, he had developed an individual style: the inflated, voluminous figures for which he is now famous. Botero has been accepted as a modern master of an established lineage of Italian Renaissance painters. He continues to explore the illusion of space and invention of perspective through volume and colour, distorting his subjects like the exaggerated forms of colonial Baroque churches in his hometown.


The horse is a subject that has gripped Botero since seeing Paolo Uccello’s famous cavalry painting ‘Battle of San Romano’ (c. 1435–60) in Florence in 1953. Although the artist has approached a multitude of themes, including still life, landscape, the circus and bullfighting, the anatomy of the horse as an image has pervaded his oeuvre.


‘Horse’ is the largest monumental sculpture Botero has ever made. The majestic statue stands at 4.5 metres high, a work of monumental size, an immovable symbol of power. A smaller version was exhibited in Sotheby’s Beyond Limits exhibition at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, in 2008.

The largest sculpture ever produced by the artist

Botero’s works are installed in public spaces worldwide, and he remains the only artist who has ever been invited to exhibit his monumental sculptures along the Champs-Élysées in Paris. His work is held in over fifty collections worldwide, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Venezuela; and Kunsthalle Nuremberg, Germany, among numerous others. He has also been the subject of several important retrospectives, most recently at the prestigious National Museum of China, Beijing, in 2016, touring to the China Art Museum, Shanghai.


‘Horse’ (2017) displays a powerful muscular chest, round compact body and strong legs, standing erect and steadfast as it looks down on us with the assurance of its past: the Lascaux caves, the Trojan horse, Whistlejacket, Muybridge, amongst others. The presence of the horse in Botero’s oeuvre is as continuous as its depiction throughout art history, an image used since antiquity to signify nobility, power, sport and glory. From the equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on Capitoline Hill in Rome, to Picasso's screaming beast in ‘Guernica’ (1937), the horse has been the companion of man across civilisations and throughout time.


‘The subject is always the same, but the way you express it is always different. I have always said that the horse, the man, the tree, they were all always, since prehistoric times, the same, and yet, there have been thousands of ways to express them. The horse of the School of Altamira, the horse of Velázquez, of Caravaggio, of Giotto, of Picasso ... they are all the same horse, but it is the way they express it that is different…’


While studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence in the early 1950s, Botero saw Paolo Uccello’s ‘Battle of San Romano’ (c. 1435–60). The quattrocento Renaissance painting which used newly invented perspectival devices to depict battling horses at various angles, greatly affected the young Botero. His father, a salesman, who died when Botero was only four, rode a horse through the hills of Antioquia; Pedro, the artist’s son, is often depicted in his works as riding a hobby horse. As a figurative painter, Botero favours the anatomy of the horse to implement his aesthetic of undulating muscle in exaggerated forms, and evidently thinks this animal as integral to his own personal universe.


Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero was born in Medellín, Colombia, in 1932, to a family of modest means. His uncle enrolled him in a school for bullfighters at the age of twelve, but Botero was primarily interested in drawing. The extravagantly rounded figures characteristic of his work were influenced by the exuberance of the ornate Spanish colonial Baroque churches and palaces that decorate Latin America. Botero appropriated the Baroque art and architecture omnipresent throughout his childhood, by synthesising the Spanish tradition of painting, foremost Velázquez and Zurbarán, and the fantastical imagery of Colombian folk imagery.


After winning second place at the 9th Salón Nacional de Artistas, Bogotá, in 1952, Botero travelled to Madrid where he studied and copied the works of the Old Masters, such as Tintoretto, Titian, Goya and Velázquez, at the Prado Museum. Leaving Spain, Botero attended the Academy of Fine Art in Florence to study fresco technique and toured Italy on his motorcycle to see the quattrocento Renaissance frescoes. He eagerly studied the paintings of Piero della Francesca (1416–92), whose work Botero deems the apotheosis of Renaissance painting, and Giotto di Bondone (c. 1270–1337) who painted in the late middle ages and depicted volume through the synthesis of form and colour. Botero moved to Mexico City in 1955, and encountered first-hand the work of the Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. He was influenced by a sense of the monumental, and the moral imperative of their social realist murals. This encounter encouraged the enlargement of his painted forms and in the following year, Botero painted ‘Still Life with Mandolin’ (1956) in the exaggerated, large-scale manner that determined his mature style.


Botero made his first bronze sculptures in 1973 after moving to Paris, a material that successfully transformed the voluptuous painted figures from his canvas into three-dimensional sculptures. In 1980, Botero bought a house in Pietrasanta, a town first recognised by Michelangelo for its proximity to the marble mountains of Carrara, and enthusiastically embraced sculpture, saying of the medium: ‘Sculpture permits me to create real volume… One can touch the forms, one can give them smoothness, the sensuality that one wants’. Botero’s monumental sculptures have been installed in public locations around the world, such as Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris; Forte Belvedere, Florence; Broadgate, London; Park Avenue, New York; Michigan Avenue, Chicago; Paseo de Recoletos, Madrid.


Botero participated in the Venice Biennale in 1958 and 1992, and represented Colombia in the 5th São Paulo Biennial, Brazil. He has had major retrospectives at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1973); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas (1976); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (1979); Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo (1981); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (1987); The Hermitage, St Petersburg; Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao (2012); and many others.


Fernando Botero lives and works between Paris, New York and Tuscany.

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Fernando Botero

Selected Solo Exhibitions

‘Botero in China’, The National Museum of China, Beijing, Nov 2015–Jan 2016; China Art Museum, Shanghai, 2016

‘Celebración’, Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, 2012

‘Beyond Limits’, Sotheby’s at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, 2008

The Baroque World of Fernando Botero, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2007; touring to New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana; Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis; Colorado Springs Fine Art Center; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento

Singapore Art Museum, 2004

Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1996

‘Botero: antologica 1949–1991’, Palazzo delle Esposizione, Rome, 1991

‘Broadgate Venus’, Broadgate Development, London, 1990

‘Fernando Botero: Pinturas, Dibujos, Esculturas’, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 1987

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Venezuela, 1986

Marlborough Gallery, New York, 1985

Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1981; touring to Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Art

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 1979

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, 1976

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1975

Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany, 1970

Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, 1969

Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany, 1966

‘Fernando Botero: Recent Works’, Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin, 1966

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Public Collections

Cafesjian Center for the Arts, Yerevan, Armenia

National Museum of Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia

University of California, Berkeley, California, United States

Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel

Hanover Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, United States

Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá, Colombia

Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany

Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas, United States

Tokushima Modern Art Museum, Tokushima, Japan

The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Isreal

Staatgalerie Moderne Kunst, Munich, Germany

Sonje Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyungju, South Korea

Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia

Ponce Museum of Art, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Niigata Prefectoral Modern Art Museum, Niigata, Japan

New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, United States

Museum Moderne Kunst, Vienna, Austria

Museum of Art, The Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, United States

Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, United States

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile

Museo Nacional, Bogotá, Colombia

Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela

Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Yamanashi, japan

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas, Caracas, Venezuela

Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia

Museo d’Arte Moderna del Vaticano, Rome, Italy

Miyagi Museum of Art, Miyagi, Japan

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

M.H.K. Foundation, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States

Meadow Brook Art Gallery, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, United States

Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, United States

Kunsthalle Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, United States

Ho-am Museum, Seoul, South Korea

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., United States

Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan

Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, New York, United States

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York, United States

The Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, New York University Art Collection, New York, New York, United States

Gramercy Park Hotel, New York, New York, United States

Gelerie-Verein, Munich, Germany

Fondation Veranneman, Kruishoutem, Belgium

Donación Fernando Botero, Coleccion Banco de la Republica, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia

Colección Fernando Botero, Fundacion Santander Central Hispano, Medellin, Colombia

Collezione d’Arte Religiosa Moderna, Monumenti, Musei e Gallerie Pontificie, Vatican City, Italy

Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama, United States

The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Ateneumin Taidemuseo, Helsinki, Finland

Astrup Museum, Oslo, Norway

Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States

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