Figurative painter and sculptor Eduardo Arroyo, one of the most relevant 20th-century Spanish artists and a master of the French Narrative Figuration movement, passed away on Sunday in Madrid aged 81, his family said.

Although Arroyo was born in Madrid in 1937, in the midst of Spain's brutal Civil War, he exiled himself to Paris in 1958 to flee the repressive regime of military dictator Francisco Franco.

It was in the French capital where he started to engage in painting in his spare time while working as a journalist.

A self-taught artist, Arroyo soon started to frequent Paris' bohemian, intellectual and avant-garde artistic circles.

He painted the iconoclastic "Live and Let Die or the Tragic End of Marcel Duchamp" along with Gilles Aillaud and Antonio Recalcati in 1965, which constituted a landmark manifesto defending collective authorship as opposed to the era's dominant trend of individualist abstraction.

Together, they spearheaded the Narrative Figuration ("figuration narrative" in French) movement, which was often regarded as the European counterpart to the United States' Pop Art movement.

While Arroyo's works were being exhibited at the main galleries in Europe and America, they remained virtually unknown in Spain due to the dictatorship's aggressive censorship efforts until Franco's death in 1975.

A prolific and multi-faceted creative, he also became one of the leading set designers of his time, while penning numerous books, essays, plays and poems and fashioning widely-praised sculptures.