This National Artist hails from Muar, Johor and was born on 19 September 1929. Datuk Syed Ahmad bin Syed Jamal received his early education at Sekolah Tambatan Rendah, Johor Bharu from 1936 - 1938 before moving to Sekolah Tambatan Tinggi, Johor Bharu in 1939. In 1940 he furthered his studies at Ngee Heng English School and subsequently at Bukit Zahrah English School, Johor Bharu in 1941. From 1945 to 1949 he continued his education at Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar (English College), Johor Bharu. He pursued his higher education at the Birmingham School of Architecture from 1950 - 1951 before continuing at the Chelsea School of Art, London from 1951 -1955. During the period of 1955 - 1956 he extended his studies at the Institute of Education, University of London to undertake a teaching certificate in art. He also furthered his studies at the School of Art Institute of Chicago Illinois, United States from 1963 -1964 and from 1973 -1975 had undertaken a Masters programme at the University of Hawaii in Arts studies.
He began his career as a teacher at Sekolah Tinggi Batu Pahat, Johor in 1956 to 1957. He was then posted to teach at the Teachers' Training Institute in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. He had also served at the Department of Education Planning and Research under the Ministry of Education and was appointed as the Director of Cultural Centre, University of Malaya from 1979 to 1982. He was also once a lecturer at the Malayan Teachers Training College, Kirkby, England back from 1958 - 1959.
The late Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal is among the personages who played a vital role in the development of the National Art Gallery and held the position as its Director from 1983 till 1991. He is an artist extraordinaire of great talent and had produced various artworks to be appreciated by art lovers to date. He had also held solo exhibitions to display his artworks to the public. Among the themes of these exhibitions were "Antara Langit & Bumi" (Between the Sky & Earth), "Ruang" (Space) and "On & Off King's Road".