George Bevan at 90 : Seven decades of art | Sunday Observer

George Bevan at 90 : Seven decades of art

Regular readers of the Ceylon Observer in the ’50s would no doubt be familiar with the name George Bevan - artist and illustrator whose drawings were used by Anne Abayasekera then Editor of the Women’s pages. And on the other hand George Bevan believes that he was the first artist employed by a Sri Lankan newspaper. He did not, as he says, undertake to draw political cartoons as Collette was the man handling this area at Lake House.

With the passage of time, we are now in the 2019s; George Bevan has turned 90 years and to commemorate this for future records, “George Bevan at 90, Seven Decades of Art” will be on display at the Barefoot Gallery, Colombo 3 until September 20. The exhibition opened on August 23.

What of his painting style? In an earlier interview, and here I quote Bevan, “colour, matching of colour; that’s what people call my style. Painting is not just copying nature. I copy nature in my own style. If the public don’t like it, I couldn’t care less. I paint for myself.”

Bevan was well known for his figurative painting and he also indulges in abstract paintings.

As Wolfgange Stange commented, “His monotone period, his tooth brush paintings of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s had as subject mainly famous artists of the time – Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshmikov from the classical ballet and Hollywood legends Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Sylvester Stallone”.

But what would come as a surprise to our readers is that his portrait of Princess Margaret was hung at Kensington Palace during her lifetime. What’s more, his earlier exhibitions had paintings of fishermen in Negombo and Trincomalee, thambili sellers and residents of the Negombo and Mount Lavinia Cheshire Homes.

Although he now lives in England, Bevan is very much a Sri Lankan at heart. He studied at Newstead College, Negombo till he was 12 years and moved over to Maris Stella College. At Newstead he learnt ballet and it was here that his learning of art and painting began and flourished.

As for his dancing he belonged to a group consisting of himself, Romayne Dias, Oosha de Livera and a few others. While at Lake House he was sent to Heywood Art College and he studied under David Paynter, learnt to draw the human figure. In 1955 Lake House sent him to England to St. Martin’s School of Art to learn fashion drawing and illustration.

George Bevan has travelled extensively and the Seven Decades of Art captures his impressions in a style that will remain with you for a long, long time.