Botero's playful reproduction of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa is a canvas imbued with the humour so characteristic of the artist's style.
Known for his over-sized figures and forms that are often taken jovially as 'fat' people, Botero explained that: "An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it." He continues by saying “I don’t depict fat people. The deformation you see is a result of my involvement with painting.”
After winning second prize in the Salón de Artistas Colombianos in 1952, Botero used his winnings to travel to Europe to study the Old Masters. This grand tour of the major art capitals allowed Botero to forge his own idiosyncratic take on formal depiction. This elastic and transformational approach to the physicality of both figures and objects was initially inspired by a small drawing of a mandolin which, when the artist slightly altered its shape, underwent an imagined transformation in sound. Botero, conjuring an imagined sound through the distortion of an represented instrument, operates therefore on the level of the potential of change in the physical world, enacted through an aesthetic change in the form of an object.
Though he often recreated his predecessors’ paintings, Botero did not always approach the originals reverentially. After travelling to view the work of the Renaissance masters, Botero ended his journey with a trip to Mexico and discovered the famous muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, whose dominant, larger-than-life figures would meld with the Western work he had seen on his tour into his own characteristic style. Without a doubt Botero's reproduction of the Mona Lisa is symbolic of this fusion.
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