Born in a small village near the mountainous Bikfaya region of northern Lebanon, Gemayel is part of a well-established family that played a pivotal political role in modern Lebanon.

 

As a young student, Gemayel started out studying pharmacology, to which he was genuinely devoted. But he was a gifted painter who was tutored by another Lebanese master painter -- Khalil Saleeby – and eventually that talent took full root in him.

 

As Saleeby before him, Gemayel embarked in 1927 on a "pilgrimage" to Paris to learn firsthand about the various techniques and movements at the Académie Julian. The Académie was set up in 1868 as a private studio for art students. Favoured by international students, especially Americans, the Académie’s roster of famous painters included Matisse, Vuillard, Derain, Bonnard, as well as another illustrious Lebanese artist – Gibran Kahlil Gibran. At the Académie, he was exposed to many different styles. He was most attracted to impressionism and Fauvism.

 

His hard work and natural talent was recognized in 1931, when he won first prize at the Paris Exhibition Coloniale Internationale. The prestigious award set Gemayel firmly on the path of art, and he returned to his native Lebanon, where he abandoned any thoughts of being a pharmacist and turned his full attention to developing his painting.