David Paynter (artist)

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This page is about the Sri Lankan Artist. For other people named David Paynter, see David Paynter (disambiguation)

David Shillingford Paynter
David Paynter.jpg
Born David Shillingford Paynter
1900 March 05
Died June 7, 1975(1975-06-07)
Resting place
Union Church Cemetery, Nuwara Eliya
Nationality Sri Lankan
Education Trinity College, Kandy, Royal Academy
Occupation Artist, Educator
Notable work(s) Murals of the Trinity College Chapel, Portrait of Ivor Jennings,

David Shillingford Paynter RA, OBE (1900–1975), was an internationally renowned Sri Lankan painter.[1] He was a pioneer creator of a Sri Lankan idiom in what was essentially a Western art form. In this regard his arguably most celebrated work is the set of murals in the Chapel of Trinity College, Kandy. The Sri Lanka Philatelic Bureau commemorated Christmas in 1996 with two stamps featuring the murals from the Trinity Chapel.[2]

Early life[edit]

David's father, Arthur Stephen Paynter, was born in Bicester in Oxfordshire, where his family owned several breweries. Arthur married Anagi, the daughter of a Sinhalese from the South of Sri Lanka, Arnolis Weerasooriya.[3] Both were in the Salvation Army and worked in India and after some years left in order to start the India Christian Mission. Arthur and Anagi moved to Ceylon in 1904, and decided to start a mission in Nuwara Eliya. Thus young David had his primary education at Breeks Memorial School in India, and his secondary education at Trinity College, Kandy.

Apart from the basic guidance he received at Trinity, he had no formal art lessons. Yet David Paynter entered the Royal Academy by winning a five-year scholarship in the open competition with students, many of whom received formal instruction in European art schools.[4]

Paynter and the Royal Academy[edit]

Paynter won the Royal Academy Gold Medal at the end of the fourth year along with the Edward Stott Travelling Scholarship which gave him two years in Italy. In 1936 he visited London for the third time - a productive and rewarding period in his art career. His one man exhibition at the Wertheim Gallery in London brought him much recognition from art critics and journals in Europe. By invitation he participated in four international exhibitions in the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburg in Rome, in New Delhi and at the World Fair held in New York. From 1923 to 1940 his paintings were exhibited every year at the Royal Academy in London. The themes of most of his early works are religious. In 1923 two of his best pictures The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the Entombment were considered powerful and dramatic statements of deeply felt religious experiences.[4]

The Trinity College years[edit]

In 1925 he returned to Sri Lanka and started work on the Trinity College chapel murals. The Trinity Chapel was a monumental work of architecture exemplifying the core vision that Paynter shared - a European worldview rooted in the vernacular of the land. Nothing of its type had even been imagined in the 1920s. The Independence Memorial Hall in Colombo - which borrowed heavily from the Trinity Chapel design - would not be created for another quarter century. Thus, in Rev Gaster's timeless design, Paynter found the ideal setting for his masterwork.[5]

Work on the Chapel began in 1923. By 1929, the side chapel was erected, and Paynter began work on his first mural. His murals in the chapel which comprise 'Are Ye Able', 'Washing the Disciples' Feet', 'The Good Samaritan' and 'The Crucifixion' are Bible stories transferred to Ceylon people and scenery.[1] by 1935, all the murals were complete, with the centrepiece being a massive depiction of The Crucifixion - Christ as a dark skinned, clean shaven native of the land, raised on his cross above the dusky gloom of a sullen swarm of mangroves - the transformation was total; a symbol of Christian faith expressed to perfection in Lankan idiom; it has arguably never been as beautifully expressed since.

Paynter found time during his years at Trinity to work on numerous portraits, many of which may be seen in the College Library. He also to lent his talent to the creation of many set designs for plays, some of which are still spoken of in awe close to a century later.

Later life, works[edit]

Paynter gradually turned his hand to another branch of art - portraiture. Here he was very successful. To be painted by Paynter became the fashion of the day. His clients ranged the elite of Sri Lanka, to British Governors to the Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka. On invitation in 1954 he painted the official portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister of India, whose portrait hangs in the Prime Minister's residence in Delhi, and Mahatma Gandhi whose portrait is in the Law College in Colombo. Another aspect of Paynter's art was his presentation of male beauty in his male nudes and semi-nudes. Paynter's portrait of Sir John Kotelawala is in the Jayawardenapura Kotte Parliament; that of Sir Ivor Jennings in the Peradeniya University Campus; and another of Dr. R. L. Spittel entitled 'Surgeon in the Wilderness' in the possession of his daughter.

When an exhibition of contemporary Christian art from all countries was held in Rome in 1951 to commemorate the Holy Year celebrations, Pope Pius XII is said to have asked for Paynter's work. In 1940 Paynter was appointed Director of the College of Fine Arts in Colombo, and served in that capacity for several years. During that period he was made a distinguished citizen and honoured with the Order of the British Empire.[6]

Last years[edit]

Apart from his painting, Paynter was also involved in the social service work of the Paynters Homes for orphan children in Nuwara Eliya, which was started by his father. David commenced the Salt Spring Farm at Kumburupiddi near Trincomalee, in 1962 to settle boys from Paynter's Homes, and moved there permanently to settle as a farmer. In 1968 took up his palette to complete his final masterpiece - the mural known as 'The Transfiguration' at the chapel of St. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia, may bee seen at the shehansilva.wordpress.com website.[7]

Paynter was struck down by a heart attack in 1975, and was laid to rest in the Union Church cemetery in Nuwara Eliya.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "David Paynter". Rootsweb.ancestry.com. 2003-06-07. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  2. ^ http://collect.ceylanka.net/default.htm?Acsas1006
  3. ^ "Sri Lanka Burgher Family Genealo". Rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  4. ^ a b "Montage - Cultural paradigm | Sundayobserver.lk - Sri Lanka". Sundayobserver.lk. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  5. ^ "Out of the Ordinary". Sri Lanka In Style. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  6. ^ http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/39107/supplements/44/page.pdf
  7. ^ Name (required) (2009-03-22). "Paynter’s Transfiguration of Christ | Dr Shehan Silva's Blog". Shehansilva.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-11-16.