About this artwork

This work is a remarkable example of Scottish surrealism. It was painted at Hospitalfield, a country house in Angus that operated as an art college, where Pulsford was a student in the late 1930s. It shows a fellow student sitting on a table reading a book, oblivious to the two partially naked women behind him. The building is the Employment Exchange at Tollcross, Edinburgh, which Pulsford would have passed when he was a student at Edinburgh College of Art. Typical of surrealist paintings, Pulsford has included several unusual objects, including a mirror reflecting a bright blue sky dotted with white cloud, a skull, ladder and jug. There are similarities with Paul Delvaux’s surrealist work ‘Call of the Night’, which Pulsford may have seen when it was exhibited in London in 1938.

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Charles Pulsford

Charles Pulsford

Pulsford was born in Staffordshire to Scottish parents who settled in Dunfermline when he was a child. He attended Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) from 1933-7. Following the end of the Second World War, a number of Scottish artists turned their backs on traditional paintings styles and instead embraced modernism and abstraction. Alan Davie, William Turnbull, William Gear and Eduardo Paolozzi are recognised as the key artists of this group, but Pulsford, whose work is less well-known, may be regarded as ‘the fifth man’. He taught at ECA from 1952-60 and latterly at Canterbury College of Art.