Edwin G Lucas: An Individual Eye
- Susan Mansfield
- 6 September 2018
A major retrospective reveals the work of a remarkable but overlooked artist
Visitors to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art's A New Era exhibition over the winter might have noticed a single painting by Edwin G Lucas, and wondered why they'd never heard of him. Now, for the first time, a major exhibition brings together work from across his career, and reveals a remarkable Scottish modernist whom art history has almost completely overlooked.
Brought up in the Edinburgh suburb of Juniper Green, Lucas' artistic talent was clear at school but his family dissuaded him from going to art college. He did a law degree and worked all his life in the civil service, but produced a remarkable body of paintings, mainly in the 1930s and 1940s, which experimented with surrealism, abstraction and symbolism, as well as showing himself to be adept at more traditional work.
His paintings are difficult to categorise, and he drew on a varied repertoire of styles. Some show the influence of Miro and Magritte, others Picasso or Paul Klee. There is figurative work, such as the unsettling but ambitious family group in 'Terrorism (Together)', a semi-abstract depiction of the stairwell in his Edinburgh house, allegories such as 'The Human Situation', and a glorious painting of Edinburgh's Caley Station, showing the movement of people through the silhouette of his own head.
What almost all of them share is colour. Lucas clearly had a love of colour and a facility for it, which is unusual in Scottish painting. Even his landscapes of Edinburgh and the Pentlands pulsate with vibrant colour. Though he quit painting in the early 1950s to concentrate on family life, returning to it briefly after retirement in the 1980s, this remarkable body of work shows a man courageous enough to plough his own furrow, even though he got little encouragement, and whose lack of a formal art education didn't hold him back at all.
City Art Centre, Edinburgh, until Sun 10 Feb.