Taprobane Collection

Harry Pieris (1904 – 1988)

‘Sapumal – the flower that never blossoms in full but opens on partially’


Harry Pieris born in 1904, first studied painting under Mudaliyar A.C.G.S. Amarasekera who then suggested that his parents send him to England. At the age of 19, Pieris entered the Royal College of Art in South Kensington where Sir William Rothenstein first recognized Pieris’s talent for portraiture. He said that Pieris had “a marked gift in giving the essentials of the sitters’ characters and his execution is mostt capable’ (Weereratne, 1993; p50).

Pieris won the prize for the best portrait in 1926, the portrait of his uncle, Sir James Pieris.

Following a brief stay in Sri Lanka after his studies, Pieris lived in Paris for six years, where he worked under Robert Folk and had the privilege of getting to know Madame Popesco.

In 1935, Harry Pieris went to Bengal to teach at the Rabindranath Tagore’s school in Santiniketan, introduced to him by Sir Rothenstein.

Pieris returned to Sri Lanka in 1938, with a great appreciation of Indian art. Ivan Peries’s comment on this observation is pertinent. “He used the same earth colours that we see in those paintings (at Ajanta). His palatte was a combination of Indian red, yellow ochre, terre-verte, lapis lazuli and cerulean blue” (Weeraratne, 1993; p50). In addition Professor Dissanayake observed an architectural quality in his method of developing his compositions.

Martin Russell in his article to the The “Times of Ceylon” in 1953 commented “If one day, a National Portrait Gallery comes into existance in Sri Lanka, Harry Pieris’s work will have the premier place in it for our generation. His soft, glowing colours and careful design, and his acute powers of observation, are among the most impressive facets of Ceylon painting’ (Weereratne, 1993; p51).

It is important to note that Harry Pieris was one who set up the ‘Sapumal Foundation’ which houses close to 800 pieces collected by him. Weereratne, writing to the ’Sunday Island’ states, ‘Harry Pieris bequeathed everything, his house and garden, what money he had and all of his collection to the creation of a treasury of Sri Lanka’s art, the work of the last one hundred years at least. He was, indeed, our indisputable arbiter eglantine.’

Reference: Weereratne (1993)

Name of ExhibitionYearPlace
43 Group 2nd Exhibition1944Darley Road, Colombo
43 Group 3rd Exhibition1945Darley Road, Colombo
43 Group 5th Exhibition1947Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 6th Exhibition1948Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 7th Exhibition1949Colombo
43 Group 8th Exhibition: The Art Gallery1950Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group Contemporary Ceylonese Painting1952Imperial Institute, London
Exposition de L’Art Contemporain De Ceylon1953Paris
Artists International Association Gallery – 6 Contemporary Ceyloneses Painters1954London
The Heffer Gallery – Exhibition of Contemporary Painters from Ceylon1954Cambridge
43 Group 10th Exhibition: The Art Gallery1955Colombo
The 28th International Biennale1956Vennice
43 Group 11th Exhibition1956The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 12th Exhibition1957The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 13th Exhibition1959The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 14th Exhibition1964The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo
43 Group 16th Exhibition1967The Art Gallery, Guildford Crescent, Colombo
Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Harry Pieris1984The Sapumal Foundation, Barnes Place, Colombo
43 Group exhibition to honor George Keyt1991Colombo
Exhibition of the ’43 Group and Other Artists by The Taprobane Collection2017Nelum Arts Centre, Colombo
Name of BookYear of PublicationAuthorPrinter
Harry Pieris The Sapumal FoundationPrint Pack Limited
Harry Pieris – 1904-19882004The Sapumal FoundationThe Sapumal Foundation

Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in

Name of BookYear of PublicationAuthorPrinter
Modern Sri Lankan Painters1992George Keyt FoundationSiri Printers
43 Group1993Neville WeereratneLantana Publishing
The Heritage I, II, III Albert DharmasiriR. Rajamahendran
Supplement to the Sapumal Foundation2018Rohan De SoysaThe Sapumal Foundation

Ref :HP 3

Title :Head of Alsatian Dog

Signed :Lower Right

Year :1922

Measurements in Cms :21 x 17

Material Used :Pastel on Paper

Ref :HP 1

Title :Portrait of a Man

Signed :Lower Right

Year :1948

Measurements in Cms :45 x 38

Material Used :Oil on Canvas


Ref :HP 2

Title :Portrait of a Lady

Measurements in Cms :44 x 30

Material Used :Pastel, Pencil, Gauche on Paper

Ref :HP 6

Title :Harry Pieris – Head

Year :1939

Measurements in Cms :38 x 27.5

Material Used :Oil Stiff Paper

Dimensions in Cms. :38 x 27.5

Ref :HP 7

Title :Northern Sunset

Signed :Reverse

Year :1938

Measurements in Cms :44 x 63.5

Material Used :Oil on Board

Dimensions in Cms. :44 x 63.5

Ref :HP 8

Title :Untitled

Measurements in Cms :47 x 40

Material Used :Oil on Canvas

Dimensions in Cms. :47 x 40

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