George Keyt (17 April 1901 – 1993) was a Sri Lankan painter. He is often considered Sri Lanka's most distinguished modern painter. Keyt's dominant style is influenced by cubism. He also claimed to be influenced by his contemporary Henri Matisse.
In addition to being a painter, Keyt was a poet. He outlined his perceptions and practice as a painter in a few essays on the vision of the painter. One of his most notable literary works is his translation of the Gita Govinda into English and Sinhalese. These translations were illustrated by his own line drawings (see Martin Russell collection and Amerasinghe-Ganendra collections).
Keyt was born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and educated at Trinity College (Kandy), an elite colonial school in the British public school tradition. Stemming from Indo-Dutch origins, Keyt gave much time from an early age to drawing and the study of art and developed a consuming passion for books and reading.
The spell of the ancient hill capital and its Buddhist aura soon came to exercise a powerful and lasting influence and was to provide both the literary and artistic stimulus living so close to the Malwatte Vihare. He became greatly drawn towards Buddhism and championed the cause of the Buddhist revival. He wrote profusely in both prose and verse.
The young painter also began to turn his back on the values of the westernised milieu of the class into which he was born.
His explorations in Hindu mythology and Indian literature led him to close links with the cultural life of India, where he lived for long and short periods from 1939 right up to the late seventies. To the Sri Lankan Buddhist source were now added the imagery of Hindu myth and legend as key influences.
A meeting with Rabindranath Tagore in the 1930s in Ceylon left a lasting impression.
Many exhibitions of his work have also been held in India, London and other European and American centres. His pictures are found in various museums and galleries abroad, as well as in private collections in Sri Lanka and throughout the world.
- The George Keyt Foundation
- Examples of Keyt's work
- Examples of contemporary Sri Lankan painting
- The lives of Keyt In memory of the 106th birth anniversary of George Keyt
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