Rafael Arroyo Fernández

Granada, 1860 - 1908

  • At the Fair


Rafael Arroyo Fernández was born in Granada on 24 January 1860. He first enrolled at the school of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the city in 1873 and remained there until 1881 under the tutorship of the still-life and landscape painter Julián Sanz del Valle, studying the subjects of drawing, figures, Antiquity and drapery.

In 1877, to mark the visit of King Alfonso XII and his sister the Infanta Isabel to Granada, the city’s Economic Society of Friends of the Country organised a competition which Arroyo entered for the first time, submitting some pen drawings of local landscapes that went down very well with critics. Subsequently, in 1881, he won a prize at an exhibition also staged by this institution for a Paisaje granadino (“Landscape of Granada”).

In 1882 Arroyo settled in Madrid where, in addition to studying the Old Masters in the Prado, he came into contact with contemporary painting and made copies of works by Fortuny, such as the sketch of the Battle of Wad-Ras, and Enrique Mélida’s Se aguó la fiesta (“The Fun is Spoiled”), which then belonged to the collections of the national museum. On returning to Granada the following year he exhibited them in his studio in the Plaza Nueva, which he would share with the painter Manuel Varela for years.

Having settled back in Madrid, now in Calle Relatores, he submitted a painting entitled Moraima, inspired by a poem by Zorrilla and set in Granada, to the National Exhibition. The city – as a landscape or setting for genre paintings – would appear in much of his oeuvre, as may be seen in the paintings he is known to have shown in successive exhibitions.

Arroyo took part in the National Exhibition of 1890, submitting Paje del siglo XVI (“Sixteenth-century Page”), a tableautin executed earlier and shown previously at the Centro Artístico, an institution which was the cultural spearhead of Granada’s late 19th-century intellectuals. He entered two Landscapes of Granada in the International Exposition of 1892, and took part in the 1893 biennial exhibition of the Circle of Fine Arts with Paisaje de Granada (“Landscape of Granada”), Calle de San Juan de los Reyes, El carmen Colorado (“The Red Carmen”) and Un aguaducho (“A Refreshment Stall”). At the National Exhibition of 1895 – where genre themes were abundant – he exhibited three paintings steeped in local colour: Preparando el almuerzo (“Making Lunch”), Andaluza (“Andalusian Woman”) and Alegría (“Joy”), being awarded a well-deserved third-place medal for the latter. Folk themes of this kind set in parts of the Albaicín district and the Alhambra account for most of the works he showed at the National Exhibitions of 1897 [Llenando el cántaro (“Filling the Pitcher”)] and 1899 [Obreras granadinas (“Working Women of Granada”), Vendimiadora (“Grape Picker”) and Una gitana (“Gypsy Woman”)].

He also made a brief foray into portraiture, a known example of which is Pascual Gayangos in the Madrid Athenaeum, and occasionally dabbled in decorative mural painting.

The last known biographical references we have relate to the National Exhibition of 1908, to which he submitted a gouache entitled Proyecto para la pintura artística y decorativa de una iglesia (“Project for the Artistic and Decorative Painting of a Church”).

Manuel Arroyo Fernández, also a landscape and genre painter, developed his artistic skills under Arroyo’s tutorship.

Ana Gutiérrez