Donald Sultan

American, Born 1951

Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Sultan received his Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and his Master of Fine Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He moved to New York in 1975, where he lives and works. He found success quickly and had his first solo show in 1977. In 1980 Sultan received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000, he received an honorary doctorate from the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C. Since the 1980s, Sultan has collaborated on several projects with American author David Mamet.

Sultan works primarily in the genre of still life, producing paintings, drawings, and sculptures. He is best known for his paintings of fruit and flowers made on linoleum or vinyl tiles. To create these pictures, Sultan glues 12-inch-square floor tiles onto Masonite or wooden supports and covers the surface with tar and rubber. He creates images by cutting through to reveal the tile layer, using the black surface to define negative space in the pictures, or by painting on top of the tile. His labor-intensive process creates works that are both objects and images.

Heather Campbell Coyle, Delaware Art Museum, January 2010
All works by Donald Sultan

Donald Sultan, with essays by Ian Dunlop and Lynne Warren. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art; New York: H.N. Abrams, 1987.

Donald Sultan: In the Still-Life Tradition, with essays by Steven Henry Madoff and David Mamet. Seattle, Washington: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1999.

Henry, Gerrit. “Dark Poetry.” Art News 86 (April 1987), 104-111.

Hughes, Robert. “Toward a Mummified Sublime Using Black Glop, Donald Sultan Produces Gloomy Elegance.” Time, May 2, 1988.

Ratcliff, Carter. Donald Sultan: Theater of the Object, with essay by John Ravenal. New York: Vendome Press, 2008.

Rose, Barbara. An Interview with Donald Sultan. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.