Aref El Rayess

The changing artist

Aref Rayess is a modern avant-garde painter and sculptor whose art evolved across various stages from naïf, to expressionist, and then to abstract art. Known for his paintings depicting revolutions and war horrors, Aref Rayess’ abstract Letterism sculptures decorate some public squares in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Born in 1928 in Aley, Aref Rayess started off as a self-taught artist. In 1948, he organized his first solo exhibition at the UNESCO Palace-Beirut. From 1948 until 1955, Aref Rayess traveled to Senegal; the primitive naïf African arts of that country gave him inspiration. Aref Rayess took up independent studies in Paris from 1950 until 1957, studying at André Lhote’s, Henri Goetz’s, and Ossip Zadkine’s ateliers. He pursued his art education in Florence and Rome from 1959 until 1963.

From 1966 until 1980, Aref Rayess taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Lebanese University. He contributed to founding the General Union of Arab Painters, and he was elected president of the Lebanese Artists Association for Painters and Sculptors for several sessions. He became known worldwide following the exhibition of his works in a number of Arab, French, and American museums. Furthermore, his sculptures grace public squares in some Lebanese and Saudi cities. In 1999, Aref Rayess also contributed to founding the International Sculpture Symposium in Aley.

Aref Rayess has many publications the most prominent of which was Road towards Peace: Insights about the Lebanese Civil War (طريق السلم رؤى عن الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية).