Everything else.. Famous Sri Lankan Painters

Famous Sri Lankan Painters

2019 Nov 25

Art in Sri Lanka has been a prominent part of our culture since ancient times from the cave frescos found in Sigiriya to more modern digital art. Keep reading to check out some well-known Sri Lankan painters and learn more about the art culture in Sri Lanka!


Senaka Senanayake

One cannot have a list of painters in Sri Lanka without listing Senaka Senanayake. As a contemporary painter, his work is well known for its colourful depictions of nature. Born in Colombo in 1951, he attended Royal College, Colombo. He later studied art at Yale University and has had his work shown in exhibitions around the world. 

Some of his famous works include Untitled (Bathers) which depicts women in the midst of their bathing ritual, Untitled (Butterflies) and Untitled (Women in a Lush Landscape).


David Paynter

Born in India to a British father and Sinhalese mother, Paynter and his family moved to Ceylon in 1904 to open a Christian mission in Nuwara Eliya. Paynter attended Trinity College, Kandy and then won a five-year scholarship to the Royal Academy. He turned to a preferred style of portraiture at which he was very successful with clients from Ceylon’s elite as his subjects. He also began work on the Trinity College chapel and completed murals depicting a dark-skinned, clean-shaven Christ akin to a native of the land. 

Some of his well-known works are The Crucifixion and other murals in the chapel as well as a portrait of Martin Wickramasinghe.


George Keyt

Born in Ceylon, Keyt is considered to be the country’s most distinguished modern painters. He had a style of painting inspired by cubism as well as French artist Henri Matisse. He combined calligraphic lines and forms found in ancient religious sculptures which resulted in a unique look.

He was instrumental in creating the Colombo ‘43 group which focused on merging the trends within European Modern movements into their own cultural sphere.

Some famous works include Gopika Vastra Paharana, Bhima and Jarasandha, and Untitled (Reflection).


Ivan Pieris

A founding member of the famous Colombo ‘43 Group, Ivan Pieris spent more than half his life in London but displayed the influence his native Sri Lanka continued to have on him with his work. The subjects of his paintings have made him an important post-colonial artist and a key figure in contemporary Sri Lankan art. His work can be seen displayed in the Sapumal Foundation Gallery.

His well-known work include Monk on the Seashore at Dehiwala and Figures by the Shore.


Jagath Weerasinghe

One of the most influential contemporary artists in Sri Lanka, he is known for his influence in the ‘90s Movement. He is also the co-founder of the Theerta Collective and a key figure in the Colombo Biennale. His work gives a glimpse into his life during the country’s civil war as well as the healing period that followed. 

Some of his more recognized work include Judiciary Boss and Ruthless Waves.


Chandraguptha Thenuwara

Chandraguptha Thenuwara’s work has been exhibited internationally from his native country of Sri Lanka to Australia, Asia and Europe. He is the director of the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts in Colombo which he founded in 1993 as an independent alternative to state-run art institutions. He participated in international artist camps and workshops and was artist in residence at John Moore’s University in 2002. Thenuwara is renowned for his concept of Barrelism which crosses into painting, drawings, prints and installations.

His work includes Camouflage and  Protest


Priyantha Udagedara

A PhD in Contemporary Fine Art Practice from Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, Udagedara’s paintings look tropical at first glance but transform into a collage of animals and human body parts interlaced with paint splatters. This watercolour form represents beauty and agony in vivid detail and colour.

His work Herbal Garden confronts the growing sex industry in Sri Lanka which is largely ignored by traditional government organizations.


Anoma Wijewardene

A contemporary artist who divides her time between Sri Lanka and London, Anoma Wijewardene is one of Sri Lanka’s most accomplished artists. Her work uses a number of mediums from canvas to digital and tends to explore isolation, healing and the freedom of the human spirit.

Wijewardene currently works on her paintings and installations but has painted iconic fashion designers. Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren are just some of the names who have been painted by the Sri Lankan artist.


Justin Deraniyagala

Another member of this list who was integral in the Colombo ‘43 Group, Deraniyagala was an important artist in developing art within Sri Lanka. Though not as well known as other members of the group, he was an artist who gave prominent to his creations over anything else and his paintings show the wide spectrum of his imagination. After reading for a BA from Cambridge University, he spent the next few years in London and Paris studying and working. He returned in 1935 to Ceylon.

He developed his style, focused on the human figure, usually female. One of his notable painting The Blue Nude of the American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker.