In the 1930s, Lucas associated with innovative and, later, influential students at Edinburgh College of Art, including Wilhelmina Barns-Graham from whom Lucas rented a studio in 1939. His involvement with Surrealism dates from this year and his pictures stand apart from anything his contemporaries were producing. Initially inspired by major figures such as Magritte, he soon found his own seam of Surrealism. This independence of thought and drive for innovation led him to spend the next twelve years producing a body of work from which 20 examples have been selected for this show.
Though he showed artistic promise from early childhood Lucas was discouraged from pursuing a career in the arts as his uncle had struggled to make a living from his art, despite being a respected painter. Although he had a career in the civil service, Lucas regarded himself as a painter who had a day job to fund his art. As contemporary painter John Byrne exclaimed ‘It’s shameful, but thank God at long last we have discovered him – he is a great, great enormous talent.’ Patrick Elliott, senior curator Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, explained their inclusion in the national collection: “They are impressive because they are inexplicable, I've not seen anything quite like them before in my 20 years at the Gallery of Modern Art: there's a bit of Picasso, but overall he's got nothing in common with anyone painting in Scotland at the time - or in fact anywhere else."
Prior to the exhibition in 2014, all of the paintings had been kept in storage since Lucas's last major solo exhibition in 1951. His son, Alan Lucas, said "My father pretty much stopped painting when he got married and started a family. It was wonderful growing up surrounded by the paintings in the family home, but the recent interest since his work entered the national collection, hung along with the likes of Picasso and Paolozzi, has really blown us away! I'm sure he would have been overjoyed by the recognition he's now getting."