Hasan Shaheed Suhrawardy

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Hassan Shahid Suhrawardy (24 October 1890 – 5 March 1965), an educationist, poet, linguist, writer, art-critic and diplomat, was born on 24 October 1890 in the famous Suhrawardy family of Calcutta. Shahid Suhrawardy was unmarried and died on 3 March 1965 in Karachi.

Family and education[edit]

Shahid Suhrawardy's father, Sir Zahid Suhrawardy, was a Justice of the Calcutta High Court and his younger brother Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was an eminent politician and Prime Minister of Pakistan. Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah, his first cousin, was a celebrated intellectual and diplomat.

Shahid Suhrawardy obtained a BA (Hons) degree in English from the University of Calcutta in 1909, as a student of the Scottish Churches College.[1] In 1913, he graduated from Oxford University in Law.

During his time at Oxford he became friends with Robert Bridges, D. H. Lawrence[2][3] and R.C. Trevelyan.

Working life[edit]

In 1914, Suhrawardy went on to Russia on a scholarship to further study the Russian language of which he already had a certain degree of mastery. He stayed on becoming Professor of English at Moscow University and was caught in the Russian Revolution (1917) (though he managed to escape). Shahid Suhrawardy returned to Russia to work and tour with the Moscow Art Theatre (1926–29) and then later came to reside in Paris with Professor Kalitinsky and his wife Maria Nikolaevna Germanova, a famous tragic actress of Russia in her time. In Paris, he served as the editor of the Fine Art Section of the League of Nations. He was also associated with editing of a quarterly journal on Byzantian art published from Prague.

Following his return to the sub-continent in 1932, Osmania University in Hyderabad commissioned him to write an introductory book on the Islamic art of different countries of the world. Later, he came to Visva-Bharati University at Rabindranath Tagore's invitation and researched on Iranian art in Santiniketan as the Nizam Professor. He was an art-critic for The Statesman and was instrumental in bringing the work of Bengali painter Jamini Roy to the notice of the public.

Shahid Suhrawardy earned fame as the Professor of Vageshvari Comparative Art at the University of Calcutta during 1932–43. A compilation of his famous lectures named Prefaces: Lectures on Art Subjects was published by the university. Other works by him worth mentioning are: The Art of Jamini Ray; Mussalman Culture (which was an English translation of the original Russian book by Vasily Bartold); A Handbook of Mussalman Art; The Art of the Mussalmans in Spain; and Wanderings of a Gourmet. The first of these books a pioneering work of art-criticism written in a lucid style. He is also known to have written a book on cookery and another translating the poems of Li Houzhu.

Shahid Suhrawardy was a member of the Bengal Public Service Commission during 1943–46. Following the creation of Pakistan in 1947, he went to Karachi at the end of 1948. He was active as a member of the Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan till 1952. He served as a guest lecturer of Oriental Art for two years at Columbia University commencing in 1952. At that time a new mansion for UNESCO was built in Paris and a selection committee was formed with international art-specialists to choose paintings that would decorate it in a befitting manner with artwork. Shahid Suhrawardy was a member of this committee.

Shahid Suhrawardy also worked as a diplomat. He was an ambassador of Pakistan to Spain, Morocco, Tunisia and the Vatican from 1954 onwards. He was very close to Jawaharlal Nehru and Sudhindranath Dutta. He was proficient in many eastern and western languages including Russian, Cantonese, Aramaic, Greek, Italian, Spanish, French.

Shahid Suhrawardy was the Founder President of Pakistan PEN, a sister organisation of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds. His anthology titled Essays in Verse of his work was published in 1962 from Dhaka. It included the poems he had written during his stay at Oxford and works that he had published in different English and American literary journals. His poems embody the spirit of the different avant-garde poetic movements of Europe. The book itself is divided into three parts: New Poems, Early Poems and An Oldman's Songs, which reflect elegant and tender thoughts.

Shahid Suhrawardy retired in 1959 and returned to Pakistan and took no active part in public life.


  1. ^ Some Alumni of Scottish Church College in 175th Year Commemoration Volume. Scottish Church College, April 2008. page 592
  2. ^ David Farmer, John Worthen, and Lindeth Vasey (editors), The Cambridge Edition of the Works of D.H. Lawrence: Women in Love. Cambridge University Press, 1987, page 586. ISBN 0-521-23565-0; ISBN 0-521-28041-9.
  3. ^ Lady Ottoline Morrell, Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy; Philip Arnold Heseltine (Peter Warlock); David Herbert ('D.H.') Lawrence, 29 November 2915. Photograph now in the National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

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