Solias Mendis

Solias Mendis was born in Mahawewa, Madampe as the secoindf son of a family of seven boys, on 12th July 1895. Though his intention was to become an Ayurvedic physician his keen interest in art and painting diverted his path to become one of the greatest artists of the island nation.In the specialized field of Buddhist temple murals, the name of Sri Lankan artist Welimuni Solias Mendis (1897 – 1975) stands out. His paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the fusion of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art.

Soliyas Mendis, who had a passion for painting from his young days, tried his hand at a few village temples and was happy with his effort It was when he was doing the paintings at a temple closer to Kelaniya that the trustees of the temple were impressed and invited him to do the paintings. He then studied the style of art used during the period of the last kings who reigned from Sri Lanka’s hill capital, Kandy (the rest of the country was then under the British) commonly referred to as the Kandyan style. He closely studied the costumes and other traditions of that era.

Mendis gave much attention to detail of facial expression. Even the wrinkles seen on the forehead made the faces look real. When he was 30, he started painting murals in the famous Kelaniya Temple, depicting the stories of the Buddha’s life, historical Buddhist tales and key events in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It took him 20 years to complete this massive project. Then a Russian born artist completed the paintings in the centre room with a backdrop of the Himalayas, to give an impression that the Buddha was looking down with compassion on humanity from a great height.

He passed away on 1st October 1975. A simple peasant, Mendis is. But he is the only genius we have produced who could not only create something new of his own but who could also give away in a spirit of self-sacrifice all that he had made in the attempt.