The Department of Painting is the oldest department in UVPA, and had a certain link with the first program of Drawing and Painting offered by the Art Department of the Technical College in Marada in 1893.
In 1933 the Art Department extended the craft sections that focused on developing the local craft industry.
In 1949 the Art Department with extended sections for Art Crafts was established at present premises – No 46, Horton Place, Colombo 07 by J.D.A. Perera who was the first principle of the college. The Painting and Drawing course was a five-year diploma. A historical turning point of the department was marked in 1953 with restructuring of the Art Department as the Government College of Fine Arts (GCFA).
In the 1950s the Program of Drawing and Painting had been run under the School of Drawing and Painting which is the earliest form of the Department of Painting. The program was run with extraordinary academic staff which included David Paynter, Stanley Abesinghe, S.P. Charles, W.A Ariyasena who is still working in his studio, Q. V. Saldin, S.J.P Wihesena, under the headship of J.D.A.Perera.
In the 1970s the School of Drawing and Painting was redefined as the Institute of Aesthetic Studies attached to the University of Kelaniya. After that, in 2005 the Institute was also restructured as an independent university which was named as the University of the Visual and Performing Art. The present form of the Department was established under the Faculty of Visual Arts in UVPA in 2005.