S M Sultan was born in Narail in 1923. With the help of noted art historian and critic Shahed Suhrawardy, Sultan enrolled in the Calcutta Art School but left after three years without completing a degree. That marked the beginning of a colourful and bohemian life that took him to many different cities. The muscular sinewy village folk appearing in Sultan’s paintings contrast strongly with the emaciated and weak figures that people rural Bengal. The ensuing tension between expectation and reality, exploitation and justice, violence and contentment, sets the tone for his epic narratives. Sultan participated in an exhibition at Victoria Embankment in Hampstead, London, along with Picasso, Dali, Braque, Klee and others in 1956. He received the Ekushey Padak (1982), the Independence Day Award (1993), the Bangladesh Charushilpi Sangshad Honour (1986) and from 1984, was made a Resident Artist of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. In 1998, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy conferred on him a special award to mark the 50th anniversary of fine art in the country.
Sultan built a school for children, and a menagerie in his home town Narail. There he established the Kurigram Fine Arts Institute in 1969. He founded, with others, the Charupeeth School of Art in Jessore in 1973. Except for occasional visits to Dhaka where he had his first major exhibition in 1976, Sultan lived in Narail for the most part. He had close ties with the founder chairman of Bengal Foundation Professor Abdur Razzak and his nephew Abul Khair. Sultan died in 1994 in Narail.