A name that is synonymous with the arts, Lionel Wendt bequeathed a legacy to Sri Lanka that is unsurpassed. A pianist and photographer of great repute, Lionel Wendt was a founder member of the famed ‘43 Group, a coterie of talented artists who set the stage for the arts in the island. His talent in photography earned him international accolades. A Barrister from Lincolns Inn, London, Lionel Wendt’s passion for the arts usurped all others. A lasting tribute to him is the eponymous Lionel Wendt Theatre which has served Sri Lankans for generations. Lionel Wendt was the ultimate renaissance man of his era, arguably responsible for creating a modernist movement in the country.
Lionel George Henricus Wendt was born in Colombo on December 3rd 1900. He was of Dutch Burgher background. Wendt’s father was a judge in the Supreme Court and his mother, the daughter of the District Judge of Kandy. Wendt’s family were educated, affluent and socially distinguished. Lionel Wendt had only one younger brother named Harry.
At the age of 5, Lionel Wendt was admitted to the Government Training College English School and later he went to S. Thomas’ College in Mutuwal which then shifted in 1918 to Mount Lavinia. When Lionel Wendt was barely 11 years old, his father died and seven years later his mother too passed rendering Lionel and Harry orphans. While he was mourning th