Surrealism and Scotland

Patricia Allmer (University of Edinburgh)

Gráinne Rice (National Galleries of Scotland)

Susannah Thompson (Glasgow School of Art)

Scotland has a distinctive heritage of engagement with Surrealism across a wide range of contexts. These include the University of Edinburgh’s appointment of Herbert Read as Watson Gordon Professor (1931-33); the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s key holdings of the Gabrielle Keiller and Penrose Archives and Libraries and strategic building of its surrealist collections; and a distinguished surrealist exhibition history, including the Society of Scottish Artists’ 1934 exhibition on ‘sur-realism’, the Royal Scottish Academy’s The Belgian Contribution to Surrealism (1971), and Max Ernst: The Sculptor (Edinburgh Fruitmarket, 1990). Scotland has also held major collection exhibitions, including The Edward James Collection: Dalí, Magritte, and Other Surrealists (1976), The Magic Mirror (1988, displaying the substantial surrealist holdings of Gabrielle Keiller for the first time), and Surrealist Encounters (2016). These have often been connected with Edinburgh’s Festival, another space of surrealist performances and manifestations.

Many Scottish (or Scotland-based) artists, curators, writers, and critics have aligned with Surrealism or intersected with it in various ways, including William Gear, Edward Baird, James Cowie, William Johnstone, Joanna Drew, Eduardo Paolozzi, and more recent and contemporary artists such as Steven Campbell, Moyna Flannigan, Maud Sulter, and Laurence Figgis.

This panel will explore some of these interconnections, and offer new critical and historical insights into Scotland’s relations with Surrealism and its traditions.







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