During his frequent travels to Paris throughout his early career, Botero immersed himself in study of the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, transfixed by the quickly rendered and loosely painted Impressionist portrayals of families at leisure in the French countryside interspersed throughout the museum’s permanent collection. Just as these works were novel in their day for depicting the daily life of the growing European middle class and appealed to the sensibilities of this burgeoning bourgeoisie; here, Botero translates this theme through his characteristic play of inflated volumes and gently sardonic ethos to a graphic, pastel-toned depiction of a modern-day family outing. The strong diagonals of the mother and father reclined across the blanket counter the line of the vibrant umbrella to create an inverted pyramidal composition that echoes Edouard Manet’s 1873 painting Sur la plage, [fig. 1] held in the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay. While Manet uses dramatic foreshortening to tilt the picture plane up to meet the viewer, creating a sense of voyeurism into this intimate scene, Botero’s composition tips in the opposite direction as the figures seem to roll languidly out towards us, placing his family on full and conscious display. The young child acknowledges the viewer, sweetly waving and gathering sand to build a castle in the lower foreground. Her parents, seemingly worn but content from a long day at the beach, lie placidly across a vibrant yellow blanket, gazing absent-mindedly out beyond us. Botero’s characteristic exuberant use of color and the familiar warmth of the figures draw us into this delightful scene, which is imbued with Botero’s signature sense of whimsy.
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