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Mr. Big Stuff



When it comes to his artwork, Fernando Botero, the renowned 76-year-old Columbian painter and sculptor, has serious separation issues. Botero, who is famous for the sensually oversized figures that populate his work, found success early in his career. The artist sold every painting from his first solo exhibition in 1951 when he was only 19 years old. Although Botero's reputation continued to grow, that was the last time he would ever sell every piece in an exhibit — not because his work isn't in demand but because he couldn't bear to part with his paintings, no matter the price. Over the years, he has even tracked down and bought back a number of works he thinks represent his major periods.

The 100 works on display in "The Baroque World of Fernando Botero" at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art are drawn exclusively from the artist's private collection and portray the whimsical and horrifying extremes of Botero's vision.

Botero's vision is as influenced by 17th-century Spanish and Italian painters as it is by the epic murals of Diego Rivera and the personal portraiture of Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo. He always has taken classical notions and infused them with contemporary ideas. For instance, his most recent exhibit to tour America prior to this retrospective was a graphic, bloody response to the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

"The Baroque World of Fernando Botero" is on view October 19 through January 11 at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Museum admission for nonmembers is $7 for adults or set your own admission fee on Wednesdays.

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