J Sultan Ali

"I was more concerned with the heart than with the head. If you want to paint a mango tree, establish a contact with it. Spend a day sitting under it, then paint it."

A painter who defied classification, Sultan Ali refused to be dictated to by the established mores of painting. Rejecting the guidelines laid down by European art as too formal and cold, Ali turned to the ancient art of folk painting in India for his...
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A painter who defied classification, Sultan Ali refused to be dictated to by the established mores of painting. Rejecting the guidelines laid down by European art as too formal and cold, Ali turned to the ancient art of folk painting in India for his inspiration. A blend of the real and the fantastic, Ali's canvases partake of the fabulous and the mythical with the presence of symbols associated with folk art. Gods and Kings, snakes and bulls, birds and cats people his paintings and have come to be identified specifically with Ali.

Born in 1920, Sultan Ali moved to Chennai where he qualified in art from the Government College of Art, Madras, in 1945. Subsequently, he did a course in Textile Design at the Madras Government Textile Institute, following it up with a diploma in photography in London. He taught for a year in the Fine Art Department at the Government College of Art in Madras and then went on to teach at the Rishi Valley School in Madanapalli for six years. He journeyed to Bastar to study the nuances of tribal culture and this experience enabled him to fine tune his technique and develop a style that came to be known as his own.

According to Sultan Ali, painting is 'anand' (bliss) and he felt that purifying the soul was an essential part of being an artist. During the course of his journey as an artist, he experimented with various styles, even eschewing colour at one point because it turned attention away from the painting itself. Ali wanted all his works to convey his feelings felt while painting.

Although any particular form of folk art does not influence his works, Sultan Ali's canvases are deeply imbued by folk themes. Animals and humans jostle for space on his canvases, sometimes even ending up inextricably mixed together. The figures are painted in bright colours, while the background is filled with dark and sombre colors. Elongated eyes, puppet-like faces and exaggerated bodies and expressions all pay tribute to the traditions of folk art. To these are added the artist's inimitable personal touches, making each painting a unique experience. A prime example of Sultan Ali's work is the series of paintings he did soon after the devastating famine of Andhra Pradesh, depicting the suffering and horror with heartfelt detail.

Honours and Awards
  • 1988 Senior Fellowship, Government of India
  • 1986 Conferred...
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    CURRENTLY ON AUCTION          
    Showing 1 of 1 works

    Lot 37 Details

    WORKS ON PAPER 8-9 April 2020

    J Sultan Ali

    Samundra No...

    Watercolour on paper

    14.5 x 22.25 in

    $8,220-10,960
    Rs 6,00,000- 8,00,000

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    Showing 4 of 8 works

    USD payement only Lot 22 Details

    Summer Online Auction 6-7 June 2017

    J Sultan Ali

    Untitled

    Pen and pencil on paper

    13.25 x 15.25 in

    Winning bid
    $6,060
    Rs 3,87,840
    (Inclusive of buyer's premium)

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    USD payement only Lot 48 Details

    Summer Online Auction 8-9 June 2016

    J Sultan Ali

    Ink on paper

    View Dimensions

    Winning bid
    $2,220
    Rs 1,46,520
    (Inclusive of buyer's premium)

    USD payement only USD payment only. Why?


    Lot 30 Details

    Words & Lines II Auction 1-2 February 2012

    J Sultan Ali

    Yajuna

    Pen and ink on paper

    9.5 x 7.5 in



    Lot 53 Details

    Words & Lines II Auction 1-2 February 2012

    J Sultan Ali

    Untitled

    Pen and ink on paper

    9 x 6 in



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    PAST StoryLTD AUCTIONS          
    Showing 2 of 2 works

    Lot 5 Details

    No-Reserve Auction of Modern and Contemporary Art 16-17 January 2018

    J Sultan Ali

    Nag with Sun and ...

    Oil on canvas

    32 x 26.25 in

    Winning bid
    $5,644
    Rs 3,55,600
    (Inclusive of buyer's premium)


    Lot 3 Details

    No Reserve Art Auction 8-9 November 2016

    J Sultan Ali

    Untitled

    Ink on paper

    7 x 8.5 in

    Winning bid
    $1,204
    Rs 79,440
    (Inclusive of buyer's premium)






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