The LWMF Collection of Lionel Wendt photographs numbers over 400 prints and today forms the nucleus of perpetuating the legacy of Lionel Wendt. The photographs are a composite of Wendt's vision with the camera, his skill in the darkroom where he did his own printing, and his imagination and creativity. The collection is reflective of the wide variety of Wendt's work covering documentary, studio portraits, nudes, landscapes, still life and experimental work, and, his technical prowess which extended to photo-montage, solarisation, multiple printing, brom-etchtings, relief prints, photograms, etc. Writing about the collection Manel Fonseka (1994 Exhibition Catalogue) says: "So imbued is it with his personality, vision, poetic imagination and technique, his authorship is almost immediately identifiable." The three main publications on Wendt, namely, Lionel Wendt's Ceylon (1950), Lionel Wendt Photographs (1994) and A Centennial Tribute: Lionel Wendt (2000) are based on the collection. The LWMF collection is the only collection that has clear provenance that can be traced to the donation of photographs from Wendt's brother.


On Lionel Wendt's death, his collection of paintings was bequeathed to the LWMF by his brother Harry (Henry) Wendt. In 1967 the collection was auctioned to raise funds to develop the Centre. A large number of these paintings was purchased by Martin Russel, and Trustees at that time - Harry Pieris and Anton Wickremasinghe. Harry Pieris' collection forms the core of the Sapumal Foundation Collection. The LWMF retained a few of the collection including the seminal painting of Lionel Wendt at the piano by W. J. G. Beling, oil paintings of Henry Wendt by B. Angi and Harold Peiris by C.F. Winzer, and the caricature of the Ceylon Society of Arts by Aubrey Collette. The current collection also includes contemporary work donated by artists who have exhibited at the Gallery.


The Collection comprises of two works of Tissa Ranasinghe (1925-2019) whose first one-man show of art and sculpture was held at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery in 1959. Referring to this exhibition, Neville Weereratne in The Sculpture of Tissa Ranasinghe (The National Trust, 2013) writes, "It placed a mark upon his brow as the finest revelation of its kind since the 12th century sculptors of Polonnaruwa, Aukana and Sesseruwa laid down their chisels and their mallets." Since then, Ranasinghe returned to The Wendt numerous times, holding several exhibitions in the ground floor gallery where the sun's rays streaming in through the overhead louvers torched the bronzes and as the day wore on from morn to noon the sculptures morphed gently into changing facets, with the light reflecting and deflecting differently from moment to moment. "Religion, mythology and experience are the sources of the recurring themes in Tissa Ranasinghe's work. He is the 20th century's representative of a long and rich national tradition of Sri Lankan sculpture, stretching back to pre-Christian times. He is a phenomenon of extraordinary proportions, having been raised in the traditions of a very ancient country and then exposed to the adventurous deviations of 20th century Europe. Characteristic elements of each tradition, the old and the modern, are creatively systhesised in Ranasinghe's work." "But tradition does not foster genius. It is the genius of Ranasinghe that keeps the genius alive. He, as Martin Wickremasinghe pointed out, for instance, draws inspiration from the folk elements of Buddhist art and from Sinhalese folk poetry, so what he creates is decorative and allegorical. He also pointed out that contrary to the qualities sought by European sculptors - the mass, solidity, roundness, and movement - 'rhythm and linear grace are the prominent features of the sculpture of ancient India and Sri Lanka ...' ". "This is what characterises the work of Tissa Ranasinghe, this and a deep appreciation of the psychology inherent in Buddhist and Hindu expression." - Albert Dharmasiri in Preface to The Sculpture of Tissa Ranasinghe Published by The National Trust, Sri Lanka, 2013


The William Mackie Collection comprises of Mementoes of Lionel Wendt treasured by his Aunt Gladys Forbes (1897-1978). A pianist who performed at two-piano concerts with him and a photographer, she was a close friend of Lionel Wendt.

“When my Aunt Gladys died I inherited some mementoes of her friendship with Lionel Wendt and of their shared interests. These items reflect Lionel's great enjoyment of humour, his creativity and his desire to share his interests with other people.”
- Mackie, William. “Mementoes of Lionel Wendt.” The Ceylankan, The Journal of the Ceylon Society of Australia, Journal 50, Vol XIII, No 2, May 2010, Editor: Doug Jones.

“The friendship and combined interests of Lionel and Gladys in piano music and in photography provides an insight into their professional and artistic cooperation and personal relationship over much of their respective lifetimes.”
- Mackie, William. Email Communication to Anu Weerasuriya, 2018.05.30.

“Gladys Mackie was born in 1897 and attended school in Melbourne, where her father was a tea merchant before he moved to Colombo in 1909 to continue his career in the tea industry. Gladys lived in Edinburgh from 1914 to 1919, when she studied piano and singing and became a professional pianist. In Edinburgh in 1919 she married O.B. (Ossie) Forbes. Lionel Wendt’s career as a pianist paralleled that of Gladys Forbes. While overseas he developed his appreciation of the visual arts, especially painting as it developed in the 20th century. Photography had interested him as a schoolboy and from about 1930, photography became his greatest creative endeavour. Recitals of compositions for two pianos brought Gladys and Lionel together on the concert platform. Photography was probably introduced to Gladys by Lionel – he had his first Rollieflex camera in the early 1930s; Gladys had used her Rollei for some time before entering her work with it in the annual competitions run by the Ceylon Photographic Society in about 1938.”
- Mackie, William. “Mementoes of Lionel Wendt.” The Ceylankan, The Journal of the Ceylon Society of Australia, Journal 50, Vol XIII, No 2, May 2010, Editor: Doug Jones

The collection includes photographs by Lionel Wendt of Gladys Forbes as well as other photographs of her and by her, post cards and letters sent by him to her, concert programmes at which they performed, a copy of a scroll which was buried in the foundations of Wendt’s home-Alborado, articles written by William Mackie and other ephemera.

The Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund is grateful to William Mackie for sharing photographs of the mementoes bequeathed to him by his Aunt Gladys Forbes, for donating some of them to the Trust and for all the information and insights provided by him.