Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib Paintings

The painter of fat women has turned his focus to a more challenging subject recently. Fernando Botero is currently showing a series of works depicting the Abu Ghraib crimes at the Marlborough New York gallery. For those that can’t make it, there’s a small gallery of the works online here.

fernando botero

ArtInfo.com has also interviewed Fernando Botero and asked him a few questions about why he chose to paint the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

I stole a few quotes from the interview here..

  • What happened in Abu Ghraib was a tremendous shock to the whole world. I believe that I have special responsibilities as an artist, and I wanted to say something about it. The artist has the ability to make invisible things visible.
  • The fact that I’ve done painting with pleasant subject matter doesn’t make it impossible for me to do work on a subject that touched me very much. Fortunately, I’m a figurative artist, and I can speak directly.
  • I will donate these (Abu Ghraib paintings) because I don’t feel like doing business based upon somebody else’s pain.
  • Just loving some painters more than others is the first step to knowing who you are as an artist.

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About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I wouldn’t touch the political aspect of the exhibition. Too easy to be misunderstood whatever one might say. On the aesthetic side, however, there is a glaring inadequacy. I have not seen enough of Botero’s work to make a judgment as to the degree to which he deliberately limits himself to his overlarge figures as a stylistic signature or does so because of some limitation in his skills. One would guess the former but I have no evidence one way or the other. At any rate, the point is, admitting that relying on reproductions are always inadequate as compared to seeing the original works, these muscular giants appear to simply being playing a game while, like Popeye, they are drawing themselves up to pop off their bonds with expanding muscles and smash their captives right through the roof.
    To rise to a more general (abstract) level of discourse, serious subject matter requires serious and appropriate characterizations.

  2. I applaud the sentiments, but this painting shows that good political art is not something everyone can just jump into doing. I would have been more moved by a skinny man, coming from this artist. Also, where is the value of this picture compared to the original photos? I think this brings up the question, “Why paint, if a photo says it better?” In other words, I could have read Irv’s comment first and saved some time. But I love typing.

  3. Perhaps it’s best to first see/know in what style Botero paints before making such grand conclusions.

    Karl, the value is in the way the artists sees it and renders it–you know this. I’m surprised to read such a statement by you after I took a peek at your blog.

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