David Paynter’s Open Homosexuality on Display THEN

Namini Wijedasa, on David Shillingford Paynter, in The Sunday Times, 22 November 2015, sent to me by Jane Russell of UK and Sri Lanka

David Shillingford Paynter was an ornament of the Anglo-Ceylonese community. His middle name indicates that his English father was a west countryman, most likely from Devon. Paynter combined a Protestant work ethic with a Sinhalese aesthetic sensibility about colour and form. 

He was also a remarkably honest painter. He openly acknowledged his homosexual preference in his paintings of young Ceylonese men: male beauty overtly informed his work. Works such as ‘L’Apres-Midi (d’un Faune’)*, which is on display in the permanent collection at the Royal Brighton Museum of Art in the UK, and ‘Pumpkin Boy’ (in private hands) show him to be a champion of what is now termed ‘Queer Art’. In that regard, Paynter was far in advance of his student George Bevan, another renowned Anglo-Ceylonese painter. The ‘homosexual male gaze’ is now acknowledged as an important, if specific, genre of 20th century western art. Paynter was in the vanguard of this movement.

Here is’ Apres-Midi’ executed in 1935: ………………

Apres-Midi d’un Faune was the name of the famous ballet choreographed and performed by Nijinsky as part of a Ballet Russe production in 1911. The Ballet Russe was the project of Sergei Diaghilev. Diaghilev and Nijinsky were an openly gay couple. The impact of the Ballet Russe on French, if not to say global, art and society in the period 1909 – 1929 is incalculable. That Paynter openly espoused homosexuality shows his rejection of hypocrisy and cant. He was a man ashamed of nothing. Paynter burned bright as a true meld of both western and eastern sensibilities. It is significant that he is being re-evaluated as one of the great Asian painters of the 20th century.

Below is a copy by Naren Banda of Paynter’s ‘Pumpkin Boy’







Sheshan Abeysekera: “Restoration of the David Paynter Murals in The Chapel of Trinity College, Kandy,”  28 August 2020, ……………………………….. https://trinitycollege.lk/2020/08/28/restoration-of-the-david-paynter-murals-chapel-of-trinity-college-kandy/


FURTHERMORE …. Thuppahi got into the ‘act’


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5 responses to “David Paynter’s Open Homosexuality on Display THEN

  1. EMAIL COMMENT from ERROL FERNANDO in Melbourne, 27 March 20221:
    “I spent my entire school life in the presence of David Paynter’s ‘genius’ paintings in the Chapel, Michael. Three years ago a senior student was asked to give me a tour of the school and we spent some time in the chapel discussing The Paynter masterpieces. I was amazed at the insights of this young man who pointed out many details that I had missed! It was a joyous experience for me to listen and learn so much from this wise young man! …… Thank you for sharing this wonderful article, Michael. ………..All the best,


    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article, Michael.

    All the best,


  2. I’m afraid I must take issue with this, Michael:

    ‘He was also a remarkably honest painter. He openly acknowledged his homosexual preference in his paintings of young Ceylonese men…’

    David Paynter openly acknowledged nothing, except in private, to friends and lovers. As far as is publicly known, he never admitted, either in speech or writing, to being homosexual.

    Of course the paintings tell their story. But if drawing, painting or sculpting a beautiful male nude were a confession of homosexuality, such works would never have seen the light of day – not, at least, until the 1960s.

    For what it’s worth, I think it’s perfectly true that Paynter was homosexual – the images tacitly confirm it and people I know who knew him have averred it. But he never actually said so himself, which creates a great problem from the point of view of a historian who wishes to tell the truth, yet doesn’t want to state the obvious without supporting evidence!

  3. David Wei

    Really, in 2022 does it matter at all? Michelangelo, according to the curator of the Vatican museum, was also homosexual, but all I care about is his stupendously great work.

  4. hugh

    Paynter was a classy artist, but why defend his homosexuality?

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