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George Keyt View Artworks of George Keyt Back to Artist

One of the subcontinent’s most distinguished artists, George Keyt was born in 1901 in Kandy in Sri Lanka. He has been acknowledged as Sri Lanka’s most celebrated modern painter who developed a deep interest in art, literature and music while he was pursuing his schooling at Trinity College. He started exhibiting in the 1920's and the work from this period is strongly influenced by Buddhist and Hindu iconography.

The 1930's saw him preoccupied with the depiction of episodes from the Buddhist Jataka or Birth stories, culminating in the representation of the life and times of the Buddha on the walls of the circumambulatory shrine room of Gautami Vihara in Borella in 1940. At the same time he was also exposed to myriad influences of Western art, in particular the early cubist landscapes of Picasso and Braque, as well as Picasso's distortion of the human figure. The uniqueness of George Key’ts work lied in the synthesis of these diverse influencesinto a distinct artistic language.

Keyt was part of the ‘43 Group, named as such as it was founded in the year 1943, which promoted art in Sri Lanka, and in the following years supported a number of young painters.

In1954, his work was exhibited at the ICA (London) by Sir Herbert Read and thereafter, the  exhibition travelled to the Art Institute of Rotterdam. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The British Museum, as well as various public collections in India and Sri Lanka. Obituaries appeared in The Independent and The Times in England following his death in Colombo in 1993. Education Self-Taught



2013 'The Naked and the Nude: The Body in Indian Modern Art', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

2011 'Ethos V: Indian Art Through the Lens of History (1900 to 1980), Indigo Blue Art, Singapore


1975 ‘George Keyt – Exhibition of Recent Paintings’, organized by French Embassy (Sri Lanka_ at Kalagaraya Gallery and French Club of the University of Sri Lanka

1974 ‘Recent paintings and Drawings’, Commonwealth Art Gallery, London

1972 ‘Lionel Weldt Memorial Exhibition’, Colombo, Sri Lanka

1969 ‘George Keyt – Exhibition of Recent Paintings’, Gallery Chemould, Mumbai

1969 ‘Selected Paintings and Drawings by George Keyt’, Indian Council for Cultural Relations

1968 Samudra Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka

1956 Exhibition organized by Peradeniya University, Colombo, Sri Lanka

1954 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

1954 Art Institute of Rotterdam, Holland

1953 Exhibition organized by All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), New Delhi and Group’ 43, Colombo in New Delhi

1946 Exhibition in India organized by Mulk Raj Anand, Anil de Silva and others


2011 ‘Manifestations VI', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

2010-11 'Figure/Landscape: Part Two', Aicon Gallery, London

2010 'Figure/Landscape - Part One', Aicon Gallery, New York

1972 ‘Lionel Wendt Memorial Exhibition’, Colombo, Sri Lanka

1967 ‘Stained Glass Wall designed for the Sri Lanka Pavilion’, Expo’ 67, Montreal, Canada

1930 With W. W. Beling and Winzer, Ferguson Memorial Hall

1929 With Other Sri Lankan Artists, W. W. Beling, Winzer and Justin Daraniyagala, Ceylon Art Club, Colombo, Sri Lanka

1928 Memorial Exhibition in Honor of W. W. Beling, Colombo, Sri Lanka


1936 With Justin Daraniyagala, organized by Dr. G. P. Malasekhara and Ceylonese Society of Arts, Colombo Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka

1932 With W. W. Beling, Motor Show Room, Colombo, Sri Lanka


Honours and Awards

1970 Award for Services to the Nation in the Field of Art, Ceylon Society of Art

1968 Hony. D. Litt, University of Sri Lanka, Paradeniya

1950 Declined the Offer of the Order of the British Empire

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