J. L. K. van Dort

J. L. K. van Dort
John Leonhard Kalenberg van Dort (1831-1898) was a Sri Lankan painter of Dutch Burgher descent. He is the first major artist in the country who perpetuated the representational idioms of the British topographical artists  (Dharmasiri, 1990).

Early life
J. L. K. van Dort was born on 28 July 1831 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Dharmasiri, 1990). His father Johannes van Dort was himself an artist as well as an architect and he worked as an officer in the Civil Engineer's Department (Dharmasiri, 1990; Uragoda, 1995). Van Dort's mother was Margerita Kalenberg (Dharmasiri, 1990). The family lived in San Sebastian in Colombo (Dharmasiri, 1990).
Van Dort first attended St. Paul's Parochial school in Pettah and then the Colombo Academy, the chief government school in Colombo (Dharmasiri, 1990; Uragoda, 1995). He is said to have had art lessons from Andrew Nicholl who came to Sri Lanka in 1846 as a teacher of landscape drawing, painting, scientific drawing and design to the School of Design at the Colombo Academy (Dharmasiri, 1990). In 1855, Van Dort became a draughtsman at the Surveyor General's Office (Dharmasiri, 1990). He married Cornelia Henrietta Spittel on 30 January 1861 (Dharmasiri, 1990).

Van Dort spent the last years of his life in a cottage named Dordrecht at Bambalapitiya (Dharmasiri, 1990). He died on 24 March 1898 at the age of 66 (Dharmasiri, 1990).

The National Museum of Colombo possesses a collection of watercolours by Van Dort. His paintings can be seen on several books such as in A.M. Ferguson's "Souvenirs of Ceylon" (1868), Capper's "Pld Ceylon" (1877), Sir William Kynsey's "Illustrations of the diseases in Ceylon: Parangi", and in the book titled "Sketches of the Costumes of Natives of Ceylon" (Dharmasiri, 1990; Uragoda, 1995; Warnapala, 2012). The watercolours of church buildings like Wolvendaal Church Colombo, Dutch Reformed Church at Galle and Matara are among his notable works. Some of his watercolors of 19th-century Sri Lanka are found at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV: Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde) in Leiden (Dharmasiri, 1990).

1) Dharmasiri, A., 1990. Section V: Painting Modern Period (1815-1950). Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series; Vol. V. Painting. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). pp.123-124.
2) Uragoda, C.G., 1995. JLK Vandort and his paintings of parangi patients. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 40, pp.163-170. 
3) Warnapala, K., 2012. Caricaturing colonial rule in Sri Lanka: An analysis of Muniandi, the Ceylon Punch. Early Popular Visual Culture, 10(3), pp.227-244.

This page was last updated on 15 August 2021
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