SM Sultan bigraphy, stories - bangladeshi painter

SM Sultan : biography

10 August 1923 - 10 October 1994

Sheikh Mohammed Sultan () (1923–1994), better known as SM Sultan(এস এম সুলতান), was a painter from Bangladesh. Sultan was born on 10 August 1923 in Masimdia, Narail district, Bangladesh. He was declared the Man of Asia in 1982 by University of Cambridge.


After only five years of schooling in Victoria Collegiate School in Narail, Sultan joined with his father to work as a mason. He began to draw the buildings his father worked on and developed an artistic disposition. He wanted to go to Kolkata to study art but his family did not have the means to send him there. Eventually, Sultan went to Kolkata in 1938 with monetary support from the local zamindar (landlord).

Having inadequate qualifications for admission into the Art School in Kolkata, Sultan only managed to get in through the help of the poet and art critic Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy (1890–1965, Who introduced Jamini Roy to the world) a member of the school's governing body also known as elder brother of Shahid Suhrawardy, former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Sultan also stayed at Suhrawardy's house and was allowed use of his library. Sultan, however, never completed his education.

After three years at the school, his Bohemian nature had the better of him and he went travelling around India and working as a freelance artist. During his travels, he made a living by drawing portraits of allied soldiers who camped at the place he was visiting. In this period, his first exhibition was held in Simla, though none of these works have survived, mainly due to Sultan's own indifference towards preserving his work. After living and working in Kashmir for a while, Sultan returned to Narail in the wake of the Partition of India, Narail now part of Bangladesh.

A confirmed bachelor, Sultan settled down in an abandoned building in Narail overlooking the river Chitra, where he lived ever since with an adopted family and pets of his own including dogs, mongoose and monkeys. Sultan would later build a mini-zoo near his home. Apart from occasional visits to Dhaka, Sultan only once left Narail for any substantial period of time. He became interested in a ruined house in Sonargaon, pretty much like his own home in Narail, and lived there for a period.

Sultan's first exhibition in Dhaka was in 1976, inordinately late for a painter of his stature. Sultan died in 1994.


SM Sultan won the "Ekushey Padak" in 1982, Bangladesh Charu Shilpi Sangsad award in 1986 and the "Independence Award" in 1993. In 1989, Tareque Masud directed a 54 minute documentary film on SM Sultan's life, called Adam Surat (The Inner Strength). Masud started filming it in 1982 with the help of the painter, and traveled with him all around Bangladesh with Sultan. According to Masud, Sultan agreed to cooperate only on the condition that "... rather than being the film's subject, he would act as a catalyst to reveal the film's true protagonist, the Bengali peasant". Bangladesh government recently completed the construction of Sultan memorial complex though it hasn't yet been inaugurated. Sultan, of course, had a special relation with Narail. He was known to the locals as "Lal Mia", a most informal and homely name only to be given to a close person. Chetona Theatre from Narail has staged Aango Lal Mia (Our Lal Mia) on Sultan. In 2005, famous Bangladeshi photographer Nasir Ali Mamun published a book named Guru with 68 photographs of Sultan. These were selected from thousands of photographs taken by Mamun in the period from 1978, when he first met with Sultan until his death.


  • Ekushey Padak, 1982
  • Independence Day Award, 1993
  • Declared Man of Asia by University of Cambridge, 1982
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