Contemporary Art

Boterismo in Art: Fernando Botero’s Chubby Paintings

Gabriela Hurtado 15 September 2023 min Read

Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, demonstrates how differently we can all view the same object. Although Botero was known for depicting everything in a voluptuous and voluminous way, he argued that his intention wasn’t to represent weight. Instead, his aim was to give prominence to volume. Here is what Botero wanted to say with his art. Read about Boterismo in art!

Fernando Botero in his Paris studio, with paintings from the Abu Ghraib series, 2005. the chubby art
Fernando Botero in his Paris studio, with paintings from the Abu Ghraib series, 2005. Alejandra de Argos.

As well as being an outstanding painter, Botero created sculptures that are also found all over the world. Because his figures have one main characteristic (absolutely all of his figures are depicted in large, exaggerated volume) his works are easily recognizable. This personal trademark is appreciated internationally. In fact, he is one of the most renowned Latin American artists in the world. Yet the Colombian artist claimed that there is more to his art than portraying the body in a different way.

The chubby art: Fernando Botero, Pablo Escobar´s death. Shows the drug trafficker Pablo Escobar looking heavy and tall like a barefoot giant standing on a house roof, with a gun in his right hand and trying to protect himself with his left hand while being shot .
Boterismo in Art: Fernando Botero, Pablo Escobar’s death, 1999, Antioquía Museum, Medellín, Colombia. Museum’s website.

The Human Form

Fernando Botero focused exclusively on painting, sculpting, and drawing figures that appear to be proportionally exaggerated. This perception of the human form, with its rounded sides and attention to the body forms, makes him the creator of what we know today as “Boterismo.” At first sight, his figures have bodies that, according to modern beauty standards, would be categorized in a negative way. However, the author insisted that, on the contrary, he is highlighting the natural shape of the body, with its curves and its sensuality. Botero did not paint bodies where the natural volume is highlighted. By giving more prominence to the volume he made figures more plastic, and more monumental.

Botero transformed his models as he painted them, without the need for any reference figures. His first step was to modify them in his mind. Then he adapted them to his unique style. His love of volume was not only for people. He also painted animals in the same way, always exaggerating their curves and rounding the edges.

Fernando Botero, Cat, 1990, Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Canaan via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0).


Botero argued that painters should look more on the positive side. He emphasized that art is just a celebration of life. Thus he chose gentle themes for his paintings. He noted that painters have often worked on the exaltation of life, even in the midst of great tragedies.

For example, Impressionism: has there ever been a depressing Impressionist painting? Even during times of war and national tragedies, painting seemed to maintain a positive attitude toward life. Today it’s different. Botero believed that now art is more about creating a scandal or causing shock. Traditionally, that’s not what was done. Kindness predominated in his art, but from time to time he expressed his social commitment and painted pictures of torture.

Boterismo in Art: Fernando Botero, Woman with a mirror, 1987, Madrid, Spain.
Boterismo in Art: Fernando Botero, Woman with a mirror, 1987, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Triplecaña via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY SA 4.0).

According to the artist, bulls have always been an absorbing subject for him. For this reason, he did not agree with the prohibition of bullfights in Catalonia and Bogotá. In his judgment, everyone has the right to have hobbies. It is not the only cruel thing in life: hunting and fishing are cruel. People who eat lobsters and throw them into the pot are also cruel, but nobody says anything about that. This consummate artist maintains a very straightforward position on this subject.

The chubby art: Fernando Botero, Mona Lisa age twelve. Shows a replica of the famous painting The Mona Lisa, modified with infantile and chubby features, conserved posture and tonality of colors.
Boterismo in Art: Fernando Botero, Mona Lisa, Age Twelve, 1978, Museo Botero, Bogota, Colombia.  Museum’s website.


In painting, his masterful handling of oil, pastel, and watercolor is outstanding. He also drew in charcoal, pencil, bistre, and sanguine on canvas and paper. While he did sculpt in bronze giving his sculptures a variety of patinas, he mainly sculpted in Carrara marble.

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