Harry Pieris born in 1904, first studied painting under Mudaliyar A.C.G.S. Amarasekera who then suggested that his parents send him to England. At the age of 19, Pieris entered the Royal College of Art in South Kensington where Sir William Rothenstein first recognized Pieris’s talent for portraiture. He said that Pieris had “a marked gift in giving the essentials of the sitters’ characters and his execution is mostt capable’ (Weereratne, 1993; p50).
Pieris won the prize for the best portrait in 1926, the portrait of his uncle, Sir James Pieris.
Following a brief stay in Sri Lanka after his studies, Pieris lived in Paris for six years, where he worked under Robert Folk and had the privilege of getting to know Madame Popesco.
In 1935, Harry Pieris went to Bengal to teach at the Rabindranath Tagore’s school in Santiniketan, introduced to him by Sir Rothenstein.
Pieris returned to Sri Lanka in 1938, with a great appreciation of Indian art. Ivan Peries’s comment on this observation is pertinent. “He used the same earth colours that we see in those paintings (at Ajanta). His palatte was a combination of Indian red, yellow ochre, terre-verte, lapis lazuli and cerulean blue” (Weeraratne, 1993; p50). In addition Professor Dissanayake observed an architectural quality in his method of developing his compositions.
Martin Russell in his article to the The “Times of Ceylon” in 1953 commented “If one day, a National Portrait Gallery comes into existance in Sri Lanka, Harry Pieris’s work will have the premier place in it for our generation. His soft, glowing colours and careful design, and his acute powers of observation, are among the most impressive facets of Ceylon painting’ (Weereratne, 1993; p51).
It is important to note that Harry Pieris was one who set up the ‘Sapumal Foundation’ which houses close to 800 pieces collected by him. Weereratne, writing to the ’Sunday Island’ states, ‘Harry Pieris bequeathed everything, his house and garden, what money he had and all of his collection to the creation of a treasury of Sri Lanka’s art, the work of the last one hundred years at least. He was, indeed, our indisputable arbiter eglantine.’
Reference: Weereratne (1993)
|Name of Exhibition||Year||Place|
|43 Group 2nd Exhibition||1944||Darley Road, Colombo|
|43 Group 3rd Exhibition||1945||Darley Road, Colombo|
|43 Group 5th Exhibition||1947||Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|43 Group 6th Exhibition||1948||Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|43 Group 7th Exhibition||1949||Colombo|
|43 Group 8th Exhibition: The Art Gallery||1950||Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|43 Group Contemporary Ceylonese Painting||1952||Imperial Institute, London|
|Exposition de L’Art Contemporain De Ceylon||1953||Paris|
|Artists International Association Gallery – 6 Contemporary Ceyloneses Painters||1954||London|
|The Heffer Gallery – Exhibition of Contemporary Painters from Ceylon||1954||Cambridge|
|43 Group 10th Exhibition: The Art Gallery||1955||Colombo|
|The 28th International Biennale||1956||Vennice|
|43 Group 11th Exhibition||1956||The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|43 Group 12th Exhibition||1957||The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|43 Group 13th Exhibition||1959||The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|43 Group 14th Exhibition||1964||The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|43 Group 16th Exhibition||1967||The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo|
|Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Harry Pieris||1984||The Sapumal Foundation, Barnes Place, Colombo|
|43 Group exhibition to honor George Keyt||1991||Colombo|
|Exhibition of the ’43 Group and Other Artists by The Taprobane Collection||2017||Nelum Arts Centre, Colombo|
|Name of Book||Year of Publication||Author||Printer|
|Harry Pieris||The Sapumal Foundation||Print Pack Limited|
|Harry Pieris – 1904-1988||2004||The Sapumal Foundation||The Sapumal Foundation|
Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in
|Modern Sri Lankan Painters||1992||George Keyt Foundation||Siri Printers|
|43 Group||1993||Neville Weereratne||Lantana Publishing|
|The Heritage I, II, III||Albert Dharmasiri||R. Rajamahendran|
|Supplement to the Sapumal Foundation||2018||Rohan De Soysa||The Sapumal Foundation|