George Claessen

George Claessen (5 May 1909-1 May 1999) was a Sri Lankan artist and poet whose art was characterised by his mystical outlook and beliefs. He was a founding member of the Colombo '43 Group.

George Claessen
Born(1909-05-05)5 May 1909
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Died1 May 1999(1999-05-01) (aged 89)
Known forPainting


Claessen was born in Colombo and was a largely self-taught artist who began to paint professionally when, aged 29, he joined the Colombo Port Commission as a draughtsman.[1] In 1943 Claessen was among the founding members of the Colombo '43 Group, who embraced modern European artistic forms over traditional Sri Lankan forms.[2] During World War II the War Artists' Advisory Committee acquired a work by Claessen under a scheme for artworks by colonial artists. Claessen's painting was displayed at the National Gallery in London during 1945.[3][4]

In 1947 Claessen had a solo show at the Velasquez Gallery in Melbourne by which point he was painting in a purely abstract manner.[2] Other solo shows, at the Archer Gallery in 1949 and in 1962 at the New Vision Centre in 1962, followed.[1] Claessen exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1956 and at the 1959 Sao Paulo Biennale in 1959 where he won an award. Claessen exhibited in London several times and was a member of the Hampstead Artists Council and the Islington Art Circle.[1] He also exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists and the Society of Graphic Art.[5]

Throughout his life Claessen continued to work at the Colombo Port Commission until his retirement and also published several volumes of poetry. A memorial exhibition was held in 2000.[1][2]

Published worksEdit

  • Poems of a Painter (1967)
  • Poems about Nothing (1981)
  • Collected Poems (1995)


  1. ^ a b c d David Buckman (1998). Artists in Britain Since 1945 Vol 1, A to L. Art Dictionaries Ltd. ISBN 0 95326 095 X.
  2. ^ a b c Neville Weeraratne (23 June 1999). "George Claessen". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Scheme for War Pictures by Native-born Colonial artists". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  4. ^ "ARP Practice: Dealing with Casualties". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  5. ^ Grant M. Waters (1975). Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900-1950. Eastbourne Fine Art.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

External linksEdit