Although his paintings fit into the criteria of a still life, Donald Sultan describes the works as first and foremost abstract. The grand scale of Sultan’s compositions (pieces of fruit, flowers, dominoes and other objects) is set against the unsettling tar-black, eight-foot square background. He is best known for his lemons, flowers and fruit. He states that his subjects are developed from previous work. What remains unchanged for Sultan’s work is the potent statement of form. Incorporating basic geometric and organic forms with a formal purity produces both subtle and monumental echoes. Sultan describes his work as “heavy structure, holding fragile meaning” with the ability to “turn you off and turn you on at the same time.” Sultan’s still lifes have been described as studies in contrast. His powerfully sensual, fleshy object representations are rendered through a pointedly labor-intensive method.
Born in 1951 in Asheville, North Carolina, Donald Sultan received his BFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. He moved to New York in 1975. Sultan has received two honorary doctorate degrees from The Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and the New York Academy of Art. Sultan’s works are held in the permanent collections of Tate Modern in London, the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Sultan lives and works in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.