A Man Perceived by a Flea
© The Artist

Reference URL

A Man Perceived by a Flea 1985
  • Scottish Art
In this painting, the bubble-like capsule encompassing the man’s head is, as the title suggests, a flea’s impression of a head seen through its multi-faceted eye. But why the man wears only one shoe and why another head appears at his waist is not clear, nor is it intended to be. Campbell was influenced by the spirit of Surrealism – the idea of a picture reflecting mental space, rather than real, physical, space. Yet, while his work is complex and absurd, it is also humorous. As in this picture, Campbell’s paintings often suggest a narrative, but this cannot be ‘read’ in a straightforward manner. Many of his paintings contain strong theatrical elements, showing the influence of contemporary performance art.

Glossary Open

Narrative art

An artwork that tells a story.

Performance art

Works in which the actions of the artist constitute the art. Artists have used performance techniques throughout the 20th century but the term is usually applied to works from the 1960s onwards.


A literary and artistic movement founded by the poet André Breton in 1924. Many of the associated artists, such as Max Ernst and Jean Arp, had previously been involved with Dadaism. The movement sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. Cultural hierarchies were challenged by the combination of diverse elements in collages and sculptural assemblages. The movement is also notable for the collaborations between artists and writers evident in the Surrealists' many publications.

Narrative art, Performance art, Surrealism


  • Acc. No. GMA 3049
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 272.00 x 242.00 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1987