Thursday, 26 May 2022

Mudalidu Amarasekara

Mudalidu Amarasekara
Mudaliyar Abraham Christopher Gregory Sooriarachchi Amarasekara or A.C.G.S. Amarasekara (1883-1983) was a well known Sri Lankan painter and amateur magician (Gunawardena, 2003).

Life events
Born on 2 March 1883 in South Sri Lanka, as the son of Rev. Abraham Sooriyarachchi Amarasekera, a scholarly minister of the Church, Amarasekara completed his education at the Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa and St. Thomas’ College, Mutwal. In 1903, his watercolour painting named Kitten won the first prize at the Ceylon Society of Arts Annual Exhibition.

In 1907, after completing his schooling, Amarasekara joined H.W. Cave & Co. to study Commercial Art while serving at St. Joseph’s College and later Ladies College as an Art Master. He then joined the staff of the Ceylon Technical College, Maradana as a lecturer in fine arts. Later, he established Atelier, the first private art school in Sri Lanka to teach the western style of painting (Dharmasiri, 1990). Several pupils of this school such as Justin Deraniyagala and Harry Pieris later became renowned painters (Dharmasiri, 1990; Gunawardena, 2003). In 1959, Amarasekara became the President of the Ceylon Society of Arts. He also served as the President of the Ceylon Association of Magicians until his death in 1983.

Amarasekara has exhibited his works at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in London. He was awarded the fellowship of the British Empire in 1924 and was honoured with the title Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1939 for his services for the arts in Ceylon. He was appointed Gate Mudaliyar in 1952. 

Amarasekara married Mable Beatrice Pereira in 1908 and they had one son, Douglas Amarasekara.

Paintings
Some of the paintings by Amarasekara are listed below (Dharmasiri, 1990);
1) Kitten (1903) - Watercolour.
2) The Storm - Copper-plate etching.
3) Bullers Road, Colombo - Watercolour.
4) A Colombo Road - A watercolour painting exhibited at the Royal Academy and in Paris.
5) Bathers (1925) - A watercolour painting exhibited in London and Paris.
6) Steps to Shrine (1932) - A watercolour painting depicting the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy.
7) Unemployed (1932) - Oil on canvas.
8) Devil Dancer's Daughter (or Yakeduru Diyaniya: 1936) - Oil on canvas. This painting is considered to be his most renowned pictorial composition. Exhibited in 1939 at the Royal Empire Society, London and between 1940 and 1942 at the Royal Academy. Now preserved in the National Art Gallery.

Amarasekara was also a popular portrait painter (Dharmasiri, 1990). Some of the personalities he painted include (Dharmasiri, 1990);
#) Sir James P. Obeysekara, J.P. (1925)
#) Mrs. D.S. Senanayaka (1926) - The wife of D.S. Senanayaka, the first Prime Minister of Ceylon (1948-1952).
#) Sir James Pieris (1929) - Member of Legislative Council.
#) Rev. A.S. Amarasekara (1930) - Father of Amarasekara.
#) Anagarika Dharmapala (1930) - Buddhist revivalist and a writer.
#) Sir Baron Jayatilaka (1931) - Member of Legislative Council from 1924 to 1931 and President of National Congress.
#) G.A. Willie (1935) - Member of Legislative Council and President of Ceylon Society of Arts from 1929 to 1942.
#) Sir Andrew Caldecott (1939) - 28th Governor of Ceylon (1937-1944).
#) Sir Francis Molamure (1950) - Speaker of State Council (1931) and House of Representatives (1947-1951).
#) Ven. Baddegama Piyarathana Nayaka Thera (1957) - Principal of Vidyodaya Pirivena from 1936 to 1958.
#) Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan - Member of Legislative Council from 1911 to 1924.
#) Ananda Samarakoon - Musician and author of Sri Lanka National Anthem.
#) A lady in red - This painting was discovered on 12 December 2021 by the curators of the National Art Gallery and conservation expert Jennifer Myers, hidden behind the portrait of "Ananda Samarakoon" during a conservation project.

References
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.133-134.
2) Gunawardena, C.A., 2003. Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN: 81-207-2536-0. p.14.

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This page was last updated on 30 June 2022

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