Trained as a lawyer and concert pianist in England, Lionel Wendt took up the medium of photography formally in the 1930s. He was instrumental in setting up the 43 Group, a group of artists whose paintings were modern, contemporary and Sri Lankan in their outlook. Although Wendt’s work was lost and forgotten for decades after his death, his contribution to the development of the arts in Sri Lanka is significant.
Wendt kept abreast of technical developments in photography, and would apply them to his work, at times combining a number of different techniques in a single photograph. He experimented with photograms, photomontage, double printing and solarisation, the latter of which he encountered in reproductions of photographs by the surrealist visual artist Man Ray.
Wendt's work has a strong modernist aesthetic but his subject matter ranged from figurative to still life to almost ethnographic imagery. He also contributed to the development of modern art in his country by sharing prints of contemporary European artists with aspiring artists and writing critically.
His work has been shown internationally at Tate Britain, London (2020); MASP, São Paulo (2017); Huis Marseille, Amsterdam (2017); documenta 14, Athens (2017); Dhaka Art Summit, (2016); 10th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2014), among others.
Wendt’s work can be found in numerous collections, including Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Minneapolis Institute of Art; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Sharjah Art Foundation; Tate, London; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Wendt studied law at the Inner Temple and music at the Royal Academy in London between 1919 and 1924. He was born in 1900 in Colombo where he passed away in 1944.