Dancing in Colombia

Artist: Fernando Botero (Colombian, born 1932)

Date: 1980

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 74 x 91 in. (188 x 231.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Anonymous Gift, 1983

Accession Number: 1983.251


Though his interest in art began in Colombia, where he was born, Botero's exposure to modern art and old master painting occurred during his travels to Europe in the 1950s. There he encountered the work of Giotto and Goya, as well as more contemporary masters like Picasso and Braque. His study of fresco technique and art history in Florence between 1953 and 1955 greatly influenced his subsequent work. Many of his paintings and sculptures embrace the Renaissance tradition of voluptuous nudes and statuesque figures exemplified by Jan van Eyck and Peter Paul Rubens. It was in Europe during his formative years that Botero began to simplify his images, and shortly thereafter he developed his signature style-oversized, sometimes grotesque, figures and inflated still lifes that expand across the composition. In the 1970s, Botero translated his oversized images to sculpture, producing enormous bronze figures and animals that literally measured eight to fifteen feet in height and length.

The artist is a great storyteller, especially when inspired by scenes remembered from his native Colombia. Often depicting scenes of leisure activity, his satirical renderings may seem humorous at first, though they are often laden with social and political commentary. Dancing in Colombia depicts a lively café filled with music and dance. The small room seems overcrowded with seven huge musicians, two smaller dancers, and a rounded jukebox. Details such as the floor littered with cigarettes and fruit and the exposed light bulbs on the ceiling suggest that the night is long in this seedy café. One can imagine the intoxicating confluence of loud music and odors of sweat, tobacco, liquor, and cheap cologne that fill the space, although none of this is explicitly communicated.