In 1996 the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts presented the Suite Senefelder and Co, composed of 102 engravings with a print run of forty sets, which Eduardo Arroyo had spent three years creating at nine different studios throughout Europe. In this manner, the painter wanted to pay homage to Aloys Senefelder, an actor and playwright born in Prague in the 18th century, who, tired of copying his musical scores and dramatic works by hand time and again, invented in 1798, almost by chance, a new procedure of graphic impression that would end up revolutionizing the reproduction of texts and images. The vicissitudes of the invention of the lithograph are described in detail in the treatise Vollständiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerei that Senefelder published a few years later in Munich and Vienna, and later in Paris. His discovery of the incompatibility between water and grease led to the emergence of a faster and more direct printing technique than engraving, as the drawing is sketched directly on the limestone by means of a grease pencil or brush. When the artist completes his task, the lithograph workers set about to rub it out; only the “ghost image” of the work – a draft of what it is to become after sanding down the stone and the complete disappearance of the original drawing. After this, they moisten the stone, which retains water, while the ink remains in the areas impregnated with the grease of the drawing. The stone is then immediately inked and the bon à tirer precedes the printing of many copies. Thus, we are in the presence of multiple art.
If in his Suite Eduardo Arroyo favors the lithograph, as he has been doing throughout all of his career since the early 1960s, this does not mean that he neglects any other printing technique, whether it be etching, dry point, or aquatint, as well as the pochoir in Jacomet’s style, linographs, and wood cuts, driven by his devotion to the different forms that the work in his studio can take, including collaboration with master lithographers and with the press operator.
The catalogue from Bilbao reproduces the text of a letter written by Arroyo to his hypothetical editor. Our painter amuses himself by hinting at a friendly rivalry with the 100 prints that Picasso received an order for (in exchange for a painting by Cézanne) from Ambroise Vollard, the Parisian art dealer who opened the way for original prints by ordering color lithographs from Odilon Redon, Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard and Georges Rouault. On his part, Eduardo Arroyo places a type of “order” to himself, who will turn out to be his own editor, basing it on a single requirement: to search in the storerooms of printers and find a number of forgotten stones whose former drawings have not been sanded out and on which, therefore, the image is still captured. For this reason he will undertake an authentic search for stones in the back rooms of printers in Munich, Lausanne, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, often found covered with a fine coat of gray dust, a vestige of the polishing that would leave their find grained surfaces completely blank, adapted to retain grease. Once there, he will choose the ones that arouse in him the desire to rework them, completely cleaning them off, interpreting and deforming the advertising images, commercial labels or decorative motifs on 82 stones.
As is well known, anything can happen in a painting. The same occurs in prints: the vitality of the lines, the incisive humor, the ingenious imagination that take us into a universe where Sherlock Holmes hobnobs with the Princess of Eboli, Lord Byron competes with Cyrano, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec runs into Stendahl, or Madame Butterfly confronts bats. Today Photosai’s virtual exhibition proposes a unique approach to this work, by means of images composed of high resolution photographs that restore Suite Senefelder and Co to its finest details, allowing us to contemplate each work to the extreme of the texture of the paper or the length of its fibers.
Fabienne di Rocco
Pictured above: El rey de la noche / The King of the Night. 1995. Lithography (2 colors) 32,8 x 76 cm.