Dr Paul de Zoysa

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Dr Paul de Zoysa

Dr Paul de Zoysa, c.1931
Oil on canvas, 51 cm x 38 cm

Agampodi Paulus de Zoysa (1890–1968) was born in Randombe, near Ambalangoda, in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In 1921 he went to Britain to further his education, and at the Buddhist mission in London he met Eleanor Hutton, whom he married in 1929; the witnesses at Hampstead Register Office were William and Sarah Roberts. Eleanor's sister Doris – associate editor of Drama, a small magazine devoted to the theatre – was the fiancée of WR's brother Michael, through whom de Zoysa had met Roberts, whose A Talk about Buddha presumably records a social occasion with him. Eleanor de Zoysa later claimed that Roberts liked painting people with darker skin – though, as here, he tended to depict them as darker than they really were – and he paid her husband 2s. 6d. to sit for a portrait. Having obtained an external London degree, been called to the Bar at Gray's Inn, and obtained a PhD in anthropology at London University, in 1934 de Zoysa returned to Ceylon, where he practised law and was politically active. He also acquired a small printing press, and published his own English–Sinhala Dictionary and a major translation into Sinhala of the Tripitaka canon of Buddhist scriptures. In March 2009 a stamp commemorating his life as a social reformer and Buddhist scholar was issued in Sri Lanka. For more information click here. In 1946 WR painted de Zoysa's daughter, Kumari.
PROVENANCE: Sir Edward Marsh > Contemporary Art Society (1931) > Southampton Art Gallery (1952) > returned to the Roberts family > A. P. de Zoysa > Kumari Jayawardena
EXHIBITION HISTORY: London Artists' Association (3) 1931 (20 gns; 'Simple as it looks, "Dr. Paul de Zoysa" is full of science – the way, for instance, the right angle made by the head and right shoulder, otherwise too obtrusive, is brought into order by the downward swing of the left lapel of the coat' – The Times, 30 Oct. 1931)

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