His is a world suffering from gigantism, but full of innocence and the best of attitudes. Behind this theme appears the quality of the painting itself, which is exceptional from the point of view of the craft. Botero's paintings are, above all, paintings of great beauty. The artist has chosen a traditional manner of painting, but this is so transformed by his personal vision that it becomes unique and very original. He works from a known and well-remembered world, but in it many wonderful things arise and take place: the composition of eight prelates piled up on top of each other like the fruits in a still life in the oil painting Obispos Muertos (Dead Bishops), 1965; the disproportion between the tiny first lady and the military giant, with a tiny cup, from the oil painting Dictador tomando chocolate (Dictator Drinking Hot Chocolate), 1969; or the presence of a snake and a crocodile on the floor of the room in the oil painting Familia con animales colombianos (Family with Colombian Animals), 1970. The catalog of Botero's exhibition, organized by the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington in 1979, divided his works into six categories: 1) religion: Madonnas, saints, devils, cardinals, bishops, nuncios, mothers superior, nuns; 2) masters of art history: various interpretations of works by Jan van Eyck, Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Andrea Mantegna, Leonardo da Vinci, Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Dürer, Caravaggio, El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan Sánchez Cotán, Georges de la Tour, etc.; 3) still and moving lifes: animals, especially in the sculptures of recent years; 4) nudes and sexual manners: particularly whorehouse scenes; 5) politicians, presidents, first ladies, military men; and 6) real and imaginary people: the cyclist Ramon Hoyos, art dealers, members of his family, numerous self-portraits, and many anonymous characters who pose, eat, dance or ride horses.
Among the imaginary people are the bullfighters and many other characters from that world, a recurring theme in Botero's work since the early eighties, as seen in his Flamenco tablaos. According to Simón Alberto Consalvi, "Botero's bullfighting is a confession: an exercise in nostalgia and, finally, a celebration of great bulls, brave matadors, Bourbon horsemen, suicide horses, and celebratory muses." But the raucous celebration cannot be understood without the presence of death, and Botero knows this well; he has produced works such as Toro muriendo (Dying Bull), oil, 1985 and Muerte de Ramón Torres (Death of Ramón Torres), oil, 1986, in which the winner is a skeleton wielding a sword while riding the animal. Since 1976, Botero has combined his work in painting and drawing with sculpture.