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Abedin, Zainullocked

(b Kishorganj, East Pakistan [now Bangladesh], Nov 18, 1914; d Dhaka, May 28, 1976).
  • Sheila S. Blair
  •  and Jonathan M. Bloom

Bangladeshi painter and printmaker. He studied painting at the Government School of Art in Calcutta from 1933 to 1938, and then taught there until 1947. His work first attracted public attention in 1943 when he produced a powerful series of drawings of the Bengal famine. After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 he worked as chief designer in the Pakistan government’s Information and Publications Division, and also became principal of the Institute of Fine Arts in Dhaka (later known as the Bangladesh College of Arts and Crafts), which he helped to found in 1948 and where he remained until 1967. From 1951 to 1952 he visited Europe and, in addition to exhibiting his work at several locations, worked at the Slade School of Art in London, and represented Pakistan at the UNESCO art conference in Venice in 1952. An exhibition of his work in Lahore in 1953 became the starting-point for a series of exhibitions aimed at promoting contemporary Pakistani art. In 1956–7 he travelled to Japan, the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship and in 1960 visited the Soviet Union. Since Bangladesh became independent in 1971, he has been regarded as the founding-figure of modern Bangladeshi art. His works embraced a variety of styles, from the realistic sketches of the Bengal famine to semi-abstract and abstract paintings. Examples are preserved in a number of collections including the Academy of Fine Arts in Calcutta, the Lahore Museum and the Zainul Abedin gallery in the National Museum in Bangladesh, which displays 78 of his 800 works in their collection.


  • Zainul Abedin [Pakistan art folios] (Karachi, 1968)
  • B. K. Jahangir: Contemporary Painters: Bangladesh (Dhaka, 1974), pp. 5–9, 57
  • M. S. Islam: Zainul Abedin (Dhaka, 1977)
  • B. K. Jahangir: The Quest of Zainul Abedin (Dhaka, 1993)
  • S. M. Islam: ‘From Bengal School to Bangladeshi Art’, Arts and the Islamic World, 34 (1999), pp. 7–22 [special issue on contemporary art in Bangladesh]
  • N. S. Nahar: ‘The Art Collection at the Bangladesh National Museum’, Arts and the Islamic World, 34 (1999), 60
  • P. Mittar: Indian Art, Oxford History of Art (Oxford, 2001)