Aref El Rayess was a Lebanese painter. Born in Aley (1928), Mount Lebanon, Aref El Rayess started his career as a self-taught artist exhibiting for the first time in 1948. He lived in Africa for many years during which he traveled between Senegal and Paris. In Paris, he joined the studios of Fernand Léger, André Lhote, Marcelle Marso and Ossip Zadkine while studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In 1957, he returned to Lebanon, but left again for Florence in 1959 with a scholarship from the Italian government. From 1960 to 1963, he lived in Rome where he went on studying and exhibiting. In 1963, he returned to Lebanon.
President of the Lebanese association of painters and sculptors, Rayess taught for many years at the Lebanese University and the American Lebanese University.
Since the start of the war in Lebanon, he has been living in Saudi Arabia and was appointed as the city of Jeddah's Art Consultant for many years. He has been commissioned by the Saudi Arabian government to produce several sculptures. One of the most outstanding is that of the stylized name of Allah. Designed by him and built in Italy from Aluminum, it stands twenty seven meters high in Palestine Square in Jeddah. Among the artist's recent works is a series of oil paintings capturing the nature and feeling of the Arabian desert.
With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, Rayess was one of the artists who interpreted the tragic events in art. Staying in Algiers, he produced in 1976 a series of etchings entitled The Road to Peace. This work gave its name to an exhibition Saleh Barakat curated in 2009 at the Beirut Art Center, encompassing Lebanese visual arts between 1975 and 1991.