Justin Daraniyagala (1903-1967)

‘ A philosopher, anthropologist, ethnologist, but first of all an artist, who was a visionary, unique for his land and for his time’ (Weereratne, 1993, p87)

 “A painting is the sum of destructions” a dictum of Picaasso exemplified Justin Daraniyagala’s  work. Behind every painting of Daraniyagala exists ghosts of many others, as it has undergone many trials which have been scratched off or rubbed down, until they had achieved his purpose. The results can be exhilarating or discomforting as you encounter his vigorous brush strokes and paint blobs upon the canvas.

Daraniyagala’s paintings are highly charged emotionally. The result is a highly vigorous application of paint on to the canvas. His feelings become mixed with the technicalities of painting, the paint brush, palette knife or the artist's naked fingers.

He was also occasionally into work in ceramics.

Over the years, Daraniyagala had observed that many artists seem to concerntrate on the middle of the canvas, which he found quite unsatisfactory. He therefore took his paintings to the very edge of his canvas. Another concern of his was the hidden side of an object, perticularly in the painting of the head as in portraits.

Daraniyagala was born in 1903, and had an early art education at the Mudaliyar Amarasekera’s Atelier Art School in Colombo. Following studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, between 1922-1927, he was fortified by Augustus John to study art at Slad School of Art, London (1926-27). In 1928 he joined the Academie of Julian in Paris.

Daraniyagala’s work was seen in London in Leicester Galleries in 1934-35 where it was favourably received by famous critics such as Eric Newton and Jan Gordon. Thereafter he again exhibited his work in 1937-38 at the Leicester and Redfern Galleries, and had a one-man show at the Adams Galleries. The Adams Galleries were critically an unqualified success, which led to his paintings being bought privately by Monroe Wheeler (Former Director of exhibitions, Museum of Modern Art, New York). In 1956 Daraniyagala exhibited at Vennice Biennale and was awarded UNESCO prize for painting ‘The Fisherman’ reproduced by New York Graphic Society.

Justin Daraniyagala’s style was compared gratifyingly with that of the English artist Sutherland by Eric Newton in the London “Sunday Times”. He stated that Daraniyagala ‘roughly spoke the sophisticated language as Mr. Sutherland’ (Weereratne,1993, p79).

John Berger, the art critic on the “New Statesman and Nation”, was convinced of the value of Daraniyagala’s work. He wrote ‘Like the Indonesian Affandi, he is an expressionist. … he is able to use the license of expressionism to emphasize the condense associations, fears and hopes that have a far wider validity’. In Sri Lanka, Fred de Silva who wrote for the “Times of Ceylon”, following the 43 Group’s ninth exhibition in 1954, that Daraniyagala’s work to him was ‘most impressive, though a little hard of viewing’ (Weereratne, 1993, p87).

Most outstanding of all comments was the great statement made by the French art critic, Georges Besson, writing after the Petit Palais showing of the Group. Writing in 1953 issue of “Les Lettres Francaises”, he said, “This realist painter, this man of vision from Ceylon, with his extraordinary range of colour, this Daraniyagala, whose name we should all remember will be known now on as one of the important revelations of our time” (Weereratne, 1993, p88).

References:  Weeraratne (1993) and Prof S.B. Dissanayake (2001-9)

Name of Exhibition Year Place
Two Man Exhibition with George Keyt 1936 The Art Gallery, Colombo
Exhibition c.1937-1938 Leicester, Redfern Galleries and Adams Galleries, United Kingdom
45th Exhbition: Ceylon Society of Arts 1940 The Art Gallery, Colombo
43 Group 2nd Exhibition 1944 Darley Road, Colombo
43 Group 3rd Exhibition 1945 Darley Road, Colombo
43 Group 4th Exhibition 1946 Darley Road, Colombo
43 Group 5th Exhibition 1947 Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 7th Exhibition 1949 Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 8th Exhibition: The Art Gallery 1950 Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group Contemporary Ceylonese Painting 1952 Imperial Institute, London
Artists for Peace Exhibition 1953 London
Exposition de L’Art Contemporain de Ceylan 1953 Petit Palais, Paris
Justin Pieris Daraniyagala – Drawings & Paintings (1935 – 1953) 1954 London
Exhibition of Contemporary Painters from Ceylon 1954 The Heffer Gallery Cambridge
Exhibited by Special Inviation 1955 Pittsburgh International Exhibition, USA
43 Group 10th Exhibition: The Art Gallery 1955 Colombo
43 Group 11th Exhibition 1956 The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo
Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings and Drawings from Ceylon 1956 Arts Council Gallery, Cambridge
The 28th International Biennale 1956 Vennice
43 Group 12th Exhibition 1957 The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo
Fifth International Biennale 1959 Sao Paolo, Brazil
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
Justin Pieris Daraniyagala – Retrospective Exhibition 1968 The Art Gallery, Colombo
43 Group exhibition to honor George Keyt 1991 Colombo
Justin Daraniyagala – A Retrospective 1992 The National Art Gallery, 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
Justin Daraniyagala 1992 The George Keyt Foundation
Justin Daraniyagala - Paintings & Drawings Exhibition Catalouge 1992 Deutsche Bank
Justin Daraniyagala 1902-1967 2011 Arjun Daraniyagala -

Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in

Name of Book Year of Publication Author Printer
Art in Sri Lanka – The Anton Wickramasinghe Collection 1988 Albert Dharmasiri ANCL – Lake House
Modern Sri Lankan Painters 1992 George Keyt Foundation Siri Printers
43 Group 1993 Neville Weereratne Lantana Publishing
Moods and Modes – 50 years of Sri Lankan Painting 1999 Martin Russel, Nihal Rodrigo, Ellen Dissanayake, S.B. Dissanayake The George Keyt Foundation / Aitken Spence Printing
Visions of an Island – Rare works from Sri Lanka in The Christopher Ondaatje Collection 1999 Neville Weereratne Harper Collins Publishers Ltd
The Presidential Collection – Contemporary Sri Lankan Art 2008 Presidential Secretariat
Sri Lankan Painting in the 20th Century 2009 Senake Bandaranayake and Albert Dharmasiri The Nationl Trust Sri Lanka
Supplement to the Sapumal Foundation 2018 Rohan De Soysa The Sapumal Foundation
The Heritage I, II, III - Albert Dharmasiri R. Rajamahendran

Ref :JD 25

Title :Two Ceylonese Women

Measurements in Cms :55 x 44.5

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Ref :JD 26

Title :A Ceylonese Man Looking at a Water fall

Measurements in Cms :55 x 44

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Ref :JD 67

Title :Two Nudes on a Beach

Signed :Lower Right

Year :1937

Measurements in Cms :76 x 95

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Ref :JD 6

Title :Lovers

Measurements in Cms :120.5 x 90.5

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Ref :JD 5

Title :Woman with Apple

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Dimensions in Cms. :60 x 47

Ref :JD 15

Title :Boys with Sparrow Hawk

Signed :Lower Right

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Dimensions in Cms. :45 x 40

Ref :JD 16

Title :Seated Nude

Signed :Lower Right

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Dimensions in Cms. :122 x 91.5

Ref :JD 17

Title :Girl with Musical Instrument

Signed :Lower Right

Measurements in Cms :102 x 122.5

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Ref :JD 69

Title :Woman with Bird

Signed :Lower Right

Measurements in Cms :34 x 44.5

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Year Institute Qualification