SM Sultan

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S M Sultan
Born Sheikh Mohammed Sultan
(1923-08-10)10 August 1923[1]
Masimdia village, Narail, British India (now in Bangladesh)
Died 10 October 1994(1994-10-10) (aged 71)
Nationality Bangladeshi
Known for Painting, Drawing
Awards Ekushey Padak (1982)
Independence Day Award (1993)

Sheikh Mohammed Sultan (10 August 1923—1994; better known as SM Sultan), was a Bangladeshi painter. He was declared the Man of Asia in 1982 by University of Cambridge.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Sultan was born in Masimdia, Narail district, British India (now in Bangladesh). After five years of schooling in Victoria Collegiate School in Narail, he 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.

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, a member of the school's governing body. Sultan also stayed at Suhrawardy's house and was allowed use of his library. Sultan never completed his education.

After three years at the school, he went traveling 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 Shimla, 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, he returned to Narail in the wake of the Partition of India.

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.


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 built the construction of Sultan memorial complex.

Sultan was known to the locals as "Lal Mia"Chetona Theatre from Narail has staged Aango Lal Mia (Our Lal Mia) on him.

In 2005, photographer Nasir Ali Mamun published a book 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.


See also[edit]