Botero – Via Crucis. The Passion of Christ in the Museo della Permanente in Milan is the first exhibition of Fernando Botero to open following the artist’s death. This is not just another exhibition of his work; it is a sort of homecoming for a number of paintings that were obviously influenced by Italian art.
Fernando Botero does not seek to portray the dogmas of the faith with Via Crucis, nor does he intend to use the concept of the “Way of the Cross” as a reminder of Christ’s agony before his death, just as the exhibition does not imply a proper interpretation of the Gospels. Based on these principles, the exhibition’s major goal is to examine the topic of dualism between religion and painting, a problem that has already been addressed by many notable artists in Western art history.
His interpretation of the Stations of the Cross is secular, consciously avoiding the construction of a confessional-inspired work. We could consider the “secularism” regarding artistic standards, considering that the exhibition does not adhere to a specific period in the history of painting but takes from it what it needs depending on the scene, resulting in a set of appropriations capable of covering a wide range of painters and art milestones. His work thus offers a personal and liberating aspect of an important chapter in the Western art history: religious painting. Although the subject is a constant in Botero’s paintings, Via Crucis is the result of a completely different creative process. The intention was to focus on portraying, with irony and humor, Colombia’s idiosyncrasy through its religious icons.
These are works devoid of irony and humor, with noticeable changes in the physiognomy of his characters who have gradually lost their monumentality in favor of volume and sensuality of form. Although Botero is adamant in asserting that his characters are not made of flesh and blood, much less souls, they are certainly humanized; that is why they can embody the effects of torture. It could be said that the image of the crucified Christ has unsurpassed value as a representation of pain, at least in the imagination of Western culture. The works of the Stations of the Cross, the representation of others’ pain leads the visitor to develop a deep sense of empathy.