The view portrayed is southwards along Mount Lavinia Beach towards what is now Mount Lavinia Hotel, originally the mansion of Sir Thomas Maitland, British Governor to Ceylon 1805 - 1811. Legend has it that Maitland elected to build his house on this magnificent headland nine miles south of Colombo having fallen in love with Lovinia Aponsuwa, a beautiful dancer of mixed Portuguese and Sinhala Rodi origins (Rodi being the so-called untouchable caste), who lived by this beach. For Maitland, it was reportedly love at first sight when he spotted Lovinia dancing in a traditional Kandyan dance performance put on to welcome the new Governor to the island. During the construction of his mansion, the 46 year old bachelor had a secret tunnel built from his wine cellar all the way to Lovinia's water well, thereby facilitating the dance troupe gypsy girl's clandestine visits to his residence. The Foreign Office arranged for the 'routine' transfer of Maitland from Ceylon to Malta in 1811.
Born in Kandy, the sacred and former royal capital of Sri Lanka, located up in the island’s densely forested hill-country in 1919, C.K.L. Samarasinha was educated at Trinity College, the city’s most prestigious school and thereafter at Richmond College in Galle when his father, a civil servant, was transferred to the Galle District Secretariat. Once Samarasinha married, he moved to Colombo and lived out his days there as an illustrator and advertising agency owner. He was cremated in 2003 in the Nedimala cemetery [two miles north west of Mount Lavinia Beach as the crow flies] and his ashes were then scattered in Kalutara, twenty miles to the south “where the sea and river merge with each other near the Bodhi” according to his loving daughter Ramani.
Samarasinha's choice of Mount Lavinia as the setting for his winning design was a stroke of genius. I say this because the beach-side area has such a strong sense of resonance with and allure for travellers coming to Sri Lanka, it being the suburb that began to be gentrified when one of the first British Governors elected it as his home over 200 years ago and where - just like so many subsequent Europeans who have come to live on this incredible island - he became beholden to its magnetic pull, embodied in Lovina, the beautiful hybrid dancing girl.
Mount Lavinia is the first place I lived in Sri Lanka almost two decades ago. We found the view shown in this poster pretty much unchanged (save for power cables, litter and the physical expansion of the Mount Lavinia hotel) when we took our daughters there in 2016. At sunset children play cricket all along the shoreline.