Edwin Lucas - Scottish Surrealist
The young man from Juniper Green who painted a mural in the scouts' “den” on Belmont Road in the early 1930s - to make it look like the camp site in a wood - went on to become a well-respected and prolific artist, producing paintings in a variety of styles.
Edwin George Lucas was born in Leith in 1911, moving to Juniper Green when he was five years old. He attended Juniper Green Primary School and as a youngster was one of the first members of the original 31st Pentland Scouts, established in 1924. He graduated to the Rover Scouts and it was the Rover crew's cottage on Belmont Road that he decorated with an interior mural. He attended George Heriot’s School then Edinburgh University where he studied law.
Most of Lucas’ paintings were produced in the 1930s and 1940s, starting off with watercolour, for which he drew inspiration from the landscapes around the family home in Juniper Green. He spent a lot of time painting outdoors. His early watercolour landscapes are very tranquil, depicting views which have changed a lot in the last 70 years. He experimented with different styles in the 1940s, still producing landscapes but turning more to oil on canvas, becoming more abstract, doing figurative pieces and experimenting with surrealism. Despite being mostly self-taught as an artist, his work was well-received and accepted regularly for exhibitions in Scotland by various artistic societies. His most innovative works were somewhat ahead of his time and he never wanted to be defined by any particular style.
He had shown an interest and talent in painting and drawing as a child, but his parents discouraged him from pursuing it as a career. His uncle, the Victorian painter E G Handel Lucas, who had been quite successful in his early career as a still-life artist, fell out of favour as Impressionism became more popular and ended up living in poverty; Edwin's parents weren't keen to see Edwin go the same way.
Edwin spent his whole working life in the civil service. Outside of work his interests, besides his painting, were wide-ranging. He was a very good junior golfer – he was a member of Baberton Golf Club – and played tennis as a young man. He was a pacifist and a conscientious objector during the Second World War, during which time he was assigned to hospital work. It wasn't easy being a conscientious objector, and it contributed to him leading a fairly isolated life at that time. He took solace in his painting - a solitary occupation. He married in 1952 and family life took over his time, although he returned to painting later in the 1980s.
Lucas has recently been hailed as "one of the most unusual Scottish artists of the twentieth century"*. He's best known in art circles as one of the few Scottish artists to experiment with Surrealism in the 1930s.
We're fortunate to have so many beautiful paintings of the local area captured before it was heavily populated, along with Edwin's bolder and more abstract painting of Edinburgh city scapes. Some of his work is held by the Scottish National Galleries and by the City of Edinburgh art collection, and a major exhibition of the full range of his work will be held at the City Art Centre next year, from August 2018 to February 2019.
See www.EdwinGLucas.com for more information and samples of his paintings.
Published in Konect November 2017
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer, with thanks to Alan Lucas for information about his father and permission from the estate to reproduce the paintings.