Artists +




Madrid, 1937
A key name in the Spanish "new figure", Arroyo came to prominence on the national art circuit late, from the 1980s onwards, after a two-decade-long period of estrangement forced by the Franco regime. Nowadays his works hang in the most reputed museums and his creativity extends to theatrical scenography and illustrated editions.
After graduating in journalism (1957), Arroyo moved to Paris to escape the stifling atmosphere of Franco’s regime. He left behind a first stage as a caricaturist with incipient flirtations with painting, although his first vocation was writing.
He combined writing with painting, but by 1960 he was already living off his work as a painter. His critical attitude towards dictatorships, both political and artistic, led him to take controversial initiatives. He opted for figurative painting in a period when abstract painting was overwhelmingly dominant in Paris, and his early themes were reminiscent of "Black Spain" (effigies of Philip II, bullfighters, dancers) but in a cáustic and non-romantic key. From a matric use of colour, Arroyo moved on to a technique more typical of "pop art", with bright colours and smoother brushstrokes. An early example of this is "Robinson Crusoe", 1965 (Lausanne, Musée Cantonal de BB.AA.).
Arroyo exhibited in a group show in Paris as early as 1960 ("Salon de la Joven Pintura"), but his first public impact came three years later, when he presented a series of effigies of dictators at the Third Paris Biennial, which provoked protests from the Spanish government. Likewise, in 1963, he prepared an exhibition at the Biosca gallery in Madrid, which was inaugurated without his presence, as he fled to France, pursued by the police. The exhibition was censored and closed after a few days.
Arroyo’s figurative option took a long time to be accepted in Paris. His first more or less stable clientele was Italian and thanks to his sales in Italy he was able to live in France.
Arroyo rejected the unconditional devotion to certain avant-gardists (Marcel Duchamp, Milà), which he considered imposed by fashions. But although he has been labelled a reactionary, he is in fact doubly rebellious: he demystifies the great masters and defends the role of the market as protector and termometer of art, as opposed to the network of museums and influences paid for with public money.
Arroyo ridicules and "reinterprets" the Spanish typical with surrealist touches. An example of this is the canvas "Caballero español", where the protagonist poses in an evening dress (1970, Paris, Georges Pompidou Centre). In 1974 he was expelled from Spain by the regime, and regained his passport after Franco’s death in 1976. However, his critical breakthrough in Spain was not immediate and was delayed until the early 1980s; in 1982 he was awarded the Spanish National Prize for the Plastic Arts, a reparation for the oblivion he had suffered until then. That same year, the Pompidou Centre in Paris devoted a retrospective to him. This museum has another important painting: "Dichosos qui quién como Ulises I" (1977).
Arroyo’s work is present in the most important art centres. The Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid exhibits two canvases, with "Carmen Amaya asa sardinas en el Waldorf Astoria" (Carmen Amaya grills sardines at the Waldorf Astoria) standing out. The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which dedicated an exhibition to him, has "El camarote de los hermanos marxistas", which mixes cinema and communism, two of his recurring themes.

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