Lionel Wendt (1900 – 1944)

‘The moving spirit of the ’43 Group’

A photographer, musician, critic and patron of the arts; Lionel Wendt was a key figure in the promotion of contemporary art and aesthetic in Sri Lanka. The now famous Lionel Wendt Memorial Arts Centre was built on the property he occupied during his brief lifetime. Thousands flock to this centre for the arts in search of that inward content and peace to which Wendt dedicated his property.

His importance was also observed by Basil Wright who was the producer of the now highly acclaimed documentay, Song of Ceylon in 1934. Wright had said that without Wendt there would have been no film.

W.J. Archer claims that ‘ Wendt undoubtedly played a cruicial role in Keyt’s development – partly by encouraging him with patronage, partly through his passionate adhesion to modern art’(Weereratne, 1993;p39).

This passion gave him the capacity to hold together the highly individualistic persons who formed the ’43 Group.

L.C. van Geyzel draws the conclusion in ‘Wendt’s Ceylon’ (Lincolns-Prager, 1950), that although Wendt was called to the Bar ‘it would seem that he had to be an artist and nothing else, and only then his remakable talents come into play’ (Weereratne, 1993;p40).

Wendt was looking for an appropriate means of interpreting Sri Lanka and her people. In 1938, he held a one-man show in London sponsored by Ernst Leitz of the celebrated Leica Company.

Upon Wendt’s death at the age of 44 in the year 1944, it was predicted that it could be the end of the ’43 Group. However the Group, marked the event with its 3rd exhibition and dedicated it to Wendt.

It is appropriate to ponder in the words of Wendt on a scroll of his dedication to the arts centre that bears his name: "May all honest endeavour in the service of beauty flourish therein and win its reward of inward content and the peace that is only in ceaseless effort". (Weereratne, 1993;p37).

References: Weeraratne (1993)

Name of Exhibition Year Place
Various Exhibitions c.1934-1944 Art gallery Colombo, USA, Asia and England, Camera club London
Inaugaral Exhibition with 12 other photographers 1934 Colombo
One-man photographic exhibition in England on the invitation of Messrs Leitz 1938 United Kingdom
Exhibition for the Opening of the Lionel Wendt Memorial Centre 1959 Lionel Wendt Memorial Centre, Colombo
Exhibition 1970 Town Hall, Colombo
Exhibition in corporation with the Deutsche Bank 1994 Lionel Wendt Centre, Colombo
Exhibition 1999 Paradise Road, Colombo
Paris Photo Fair organized by International European Salon of Photography 1999 Lourve, France
Exhibition 2000 Lionel Wendt Centre, Colombo
Exhibition at the Fukoka Asian Art Museum 2003 Japan
Documenta 14 2017 Athens, Greece
Retrospective Exhibition 2017 Huise Marsellie, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Lionel Wendt Exhibition 2017 Harold Peiris Gallery, Colombo
Exhibition of the ’43 Group and Other Artists by The Taprobane Collection 2017 Nelum Arts Centre, Colombo
Photographs Exhibited all year round at Ton Peek - Utrecht, Netherlands
Photography Exhibited all year round at Jhaveri Contemporary - Mumbai, India
Name of Book Year of Publication Author Printer
Lionel Wendt's Ceylon 1950 Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund Lincolns-Prager Publishers Ltd
Lionel Wendt Photographs 1994 Albert Dharmasiri Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund
Lionel Wendt - A Centennial Tribute 2000 Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund Ceylon Printers Ltd
Lionel Wendt - Art and Life 2017 Sampath Bandara Translated by Vijita Fernando Neo Graphics (Pvt) Ltd
Lionel Wendt - Ceylon 2017 Shanay Jhaveri, Stephen Sanders, Nicky van Banning Fw Books

Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in

Name of Book Year of Publication Author Printer
43 Group 1993 Neville Weereratne Lantana Publishing

Documentaries

Name of Documentary Year of Production
The Song of Ceylon 1934

Ref :LW 1

Title :Shadow on the Wall

Measurements in Cms :25.5 x 30.5

Ref :LW 3

Title :Prominence

Measurements in Cms :30.5 x 20

Ref :LW 5

Title :Acceptance

Measurements in Cms :30.5 x 21

Ref :LW 6

Title :Patience

Measurements in Cms :23 x 28

Ref :LW 7

Title :Bachelor Cruising South

Measurements in Cms :21.5 x 16.5

Ref :LW 8

Title :Harmony

Measurements in Cms :15.5 x 23

Ref :LW 9

Title :Innocence

Measurements in Cms :24.5 x 16

Ref :LW 12

Title :Male Nude

Measurements in Cms :24.25 x 16.5

Ref :LW 14

Title :Untitled

Measurements in Cms :38 x 31

Ref :LW 15

Title :Young Bride

Measurements in Cms :34 x 26.25

Ref :LW 17

Title :Portrait of a Centenarian

Measurements in Cms :38 x 30

Ref :LW 18

Title :Sales within a Frame

Measurements in Cms :31 x 38

Ref :LW 19

Title :Interpolation

Measurements in Cms :38 x 30.5

Ref :LW 20

Title :Pillars at Dusk

Measurements in Cms :37 x 28.5

Ref :LW 22

Title :A “Shaggy Dog” in the making.

Measurements in Cms :30 x 35

Ref :LW 23

Title :Dumbara Mats

Measurements in Cms :23.5 x 15.5

Ref :LW 24

Title :Light House

Measurements in Cms :38 x 29

Ref :LW 28

Title :Rain Drops

Measurements in Cms :51 x 35

Ref :LW 29

Title :The Young George Keyt painting a Master Piece

Measurements in Cms :43 x 58

Ref :LW 30

Title :Still Life with Lotuses

Measurements in Cms :59 x 43

Ref :LW 31

Title :At the Pottery

Measurements in Cms :58 x 43

Ref :LW 32

Title :Flower Piece

Measurements in Cms :38 x 30

Ref :LW 33

Title :Dawn

Measurements in Cms :38 x 30.5

Ref :LW 34

Title :Composition

Measurements in Cms :45 x 37

Ref :LW 36

Title :George Keyt

Measurements in Cms :14.5 x 20

Year Institute Qualification