The Paradise of the Flies or Walter Benjamin’s Last Breath in Portbou (26-IX-1940), oil on canvas with 26 flies made of wood, iron and metal. Produced in 1999 and exhibited at ARCO in the same year.
‘In the twilight of this century, the richest in contradictions and inventions, I decided to become a painter of history, or if you prefer, of histories in the plural.’ So wrote the artist in 1999. The first picture of this new phase of work commenced in 1999 is an evocation of Walter Benjamin with a double face of the philosopher over the midday Portbou landscape with a north wind blowing. A landscape framed by a double row of flies: 22 painted on the canvas itself and 26 fixed to the frame of the picture. In the double portrait of Benjamin, the glasses one wears are intact and those the other wears are broken. These broken glasses show the moment when he abandons the world of the living. This large picture was not to be Arroyo’s last evocation of Benjamin. Four years later he published the book El Trio Calaveras (Madrid: Taurus, 2003), whose central characters are Benjamin, Goya and Byron. The book, an essay conceived as a succession of scenes, posits the similarities between these three artists: their eccentricity, their travels and their destruction.
Eduardo Arroyo (Madrid, 1937) is one of the most renowned Spanish painters and a key exponent of the so-called New Spanish Figuration. He lived in exile in Paris during the Franco dictatorship, and exile is a constant in his work, both as a painter and as an illustrator and writer.