Anniversary of the Lionel Wendt Theatre
The Lionel Wendt Art Centre is dedicated,
as intended, to the performing arts, to drama, ballet and music and to painting,
sculpture and photography. It came about through the bequests of two brothers,
Lionel and Harry Wendt, who both died young within a year of each other, in 1944
and 1945 respectively.
Lionel Wendt was a barrister whose
principle interests lay not in Law but in music and photography. He was a
virtuoso pianist whose performances were highly regarded, and he was a dedicated
teacher. As a photographer he earned the early plaudits of people in the
profession; he was accorded the rare distinction of a one-man exhibition hosted
by the makers of the famous Leica cameras in London in 1938. In 1943, the ’43
Group, a fellowship of distinguished Sri Lankan artists, was formed under his
Upon his death, his brother Harry and
their friend, Harold Peiris, decided to commemorate Lionel Wendt in an Arts
Complex. However with Harry Wendt’s early death the task of implementing it
was left to Harold Peiris. He was to devote his whole life to this project,
lavishing vast sums of his own money to see it completed.
The Lionel Wendt Theatre opened in
December l953 with the production of Maxim Gorky’s "Lower Depths"
with a cast of some of Colombo’s most accomplished amateur actors directed by
Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s
"Maname" was produced at the Lionel Wendt Theatre in l956, breaking
new ground. With Chitrasena’s "Karadiya" which had its first
performance here in 1961, the Wendt became the most widely-used venue for
performances of plays in both Sinhala and English with the occasional production
of a play in Tamil.
It has also been the place for the performance of musical concerts, Bharatha Natyam arangetrams and recitals of classical music, both Western and Indian. The Gallery has hosted innumerable exhibitions of the work of Sri Lankan artists, and the studios of the Photographic Society of Sri Lanka serve a wide variety of people, amateur and professional. Indeed, the Centre has fulfilled every aspect of its dedication as a place for the practice and performance of all the Arts.
- Neville Weereratne -