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J. Sultan Ali
Modern East Indian Painter
J. Sultan Ali was born in Bombay on 12 September 1920. He qualified in art from the Government College of Art, Madras 1930-45. Thereafter he did textile deign at the Madras Government Textile Institute. In 1947 he did a diploma from the British Institute of Photography, London. He was a senior instructor in painting, Fine Arts Department Government College of Art, Madras in 1947-48. From 1948-54 he was a teacher at Rishi Valley School, Madanapali.
Sultan Ali developed his own vigorous style which incorporated elements of play. He integrated elements of the real and the fantastical to create a charged colourful world of imagination. Although he did not draw directly from one or other branch of folk art, his images appeared to have the flavour of folk painting.
Sultan Ali was a prolific artist who took part in all major exhibitions in the country. He also actively assisted in organizational work and was a founder member of the Progressive Painters Association. He also joined the Cholamandal Association where he lived and worked. In 1954 he made one of his best known series of works inspired by the devastating famine in Andhra Pradesh. Sultan Ali also had a mastery in pen and ink drawings especially of animal forms in which he combined the fabulous with Indian folk styles. He had 21 solo shows between 1946-86 and participated in several art exhibitions like the Biennale of Lugano, Switzerland and the 33rd Biennale of Venice, Italy in 1966, the 9th Biennale of Sao Paolo, Brazil in 1967, the 2nd Triennale-India in 1971, the 4th Triennale-India in 1978, Asian Artists Exhibition [modern Asian Art-India, China and Japan] part I, Fukoka Art Museum, Japan in 1979, Indian Contemporary Art, West Germany in 1982, All-India Artists Conference Calcutta in 1983 and the 3rd Asian Art Biennale, Bangladesh in 1986.
Sultan Ali received the President’s Silver plaque, New Delhi in 1963 and the Lalit Kala Academy award in 1966 and 1978. He was honoured by the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishad, Bangalore in 1976. His paintings are in the collections of National Gallery of Modern Art, National Art Gallery, Madras Lalit Kala Academy, State Museum Hyderabad, Punjab Government Museum, Chandigarh, Royal Tropical Museum of Indian Art, Institute of Papua New Guinea, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A, Commonwealth Institute of Australia and Bharat Kala Bhawan, Varanasi.