The James Henry Pullen exhibition at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village opens to the public on Tuesday 19 June and closes on Sunday 28 October 2018. This exhibitioncontinues Watts Gallery’s exhibition series about 19thand early 20th century outsider artists and is the first-ever gallery show exploring the life and work of James Henry Pullen.
James Henry Pullen (1835 – 1916) had learning disabilities. After attending a school for children with special needs, he was admitted to Earlswood Asylum in Reigate, Surrey when he was 14 years old and where he stayed for over seventy years. Although a clear diagnosis was never been made, it was thought he might have suffered from aphasia.
Whilst James Henry Pullen was unable to lead a completely independent life, his creative development flourished. At Earlswood he was taught carpentry and cabinet making in which he excelled. He also continued drawing and model making, which he had enjoyed since childhood. His woodworking skills and childhood fascination with boats led to making exhibition worthy replica model boats which he started to make on a large scale and in intricate detail, copying the crafts of shipwrights. In his workshop he also made imaginative/fantasy model boats and he created a mechanical mannequin/giant puppet in his workshop that he could get inside and manipulate. After a phase of making imaginary models, he started painting and making furniture for the asylum. He also made small carvings that he would sell. When he didn’t have the tools he needed for his creativity, he would make them. The story of his life is encapsulated in 41 of his drawings.
James Henry Pullen became a Victorian celebrity, known as ‘the Genius of Earlswood. This exhibition tells Pullen’s extraordinary story and includes works lent by the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability. Dr John Langdon Down was the superintendent at Earlswood and greatly supported James Henry Pullen. Watts Gallery Trust is also working with DAISY to appoint an artist in residence and to engage new audiences and artists, particularly those with disabilities.
Further information can be found here: