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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Angel Botello

Reclining Figure, Angel Botello--the warmth of Gauguin, the style of Picasso.

Angel Botello
(Apparently a very modest man;
he painted no self-portraits
and left but one photo of his
handsome face.)
What would you get if you took equal parts of Picasso and Gauguin, then stirred in a pinch of Modigliani, a snippet of Miro, and maybe just a touch of Chagall? The result would be the art of Angel Botello. If you've never heard of him, you probably don't live in Puerto Rico. Some have referred to Botello as the Caribbean Gauguin. Inasmuch as Botello was born in the small town of Cangas do Morrazo, Spain (1913), we can't very well call him the a Spanish Picasso, though there is a generous dollop of his fellow countryman's influence in this tasty mix, which can readily be seen in his work. Perhaps it would be appropriate to refer to Botello as a Caribbean Picasso, in that the artist spent more than half his life living and working in that region.

3 Young Girls, Angel Botello, a
favorite subject, a favorite style.

Botello was one of six children born to a Spanish businessman in the fish canning industry. When the family went broke in the 1920s, they moved to the Bordeaux region of France. Angel's mother wanted him to become a farmer but having come of age in a country where architecture was valued as perhaps the greatest of the fine arts, the boy (and his younger brother too) insisted upon studying art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. It was apparently a good choice, they both graduated with honors in painting, drawing, and modeling (French for sculpture). From there, in 1935, Botello moved back to Spain to study at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid. He would seem to have been an aspiring, talented, hardworking young artist with a promising future.

Haitian Landscape, 1950, Angelo Botello, in the spirit of Gauguin.
Unfortunately history intruded. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War enveloped his country. Botello joined the Republican Army as a cartographer. As if the war alone wasn't bad enough for a budding young artist, Botello joined the losing side. In 1939, dictator, Francisco Franco, came to power. Botello fled the country to join his family in a French refugee camp before they all decided to pack it up and move to the Dominican Republic. Though welcomed warmly by local artists, Botello roamed the Caribbean for some time looking for a home, residing briefly in Cuba, and for some ten years in Haiti before moving to Puerto Rico with his wife and family. During those years his career prospered, his work gaining recognition locally and abroad.

Playa, Angel Botello
Originally a painter, Botello could move quite easily among several media--painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, lithography, serigraphy, mosaics, and sculpture. Writers are always tempted to highlight one or two media in which such artists most excelled, but in Botello's case that would be difficult, not to mention misleading. He seems not to have favored one media over others either personally or professionally. His success in the 1950s allowed the Botello family to open two art galleries where gradually, he shed references to Gauguin, Picasso, and others to foster what has come to be known as the "Botellian" style. Not unlike many Latino men of his generation, Botello was a heavy smoker. In 1985 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Then, as is still often the case, this amounted to a death sentence. But for the stricken artist, it was the impetus for the production of some 22 large-scale bronze sculptures before finally succumbing to the disease in November, 1986. He was 73.

Toro, Angelo Botello--what could be
more Picasso?
Nina Jugando, Angel Botello.
He had three daughters.


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