Louay Kayyali studied fine arts at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome (after receiving a scholarship from the Ministry of Education). During this time he participated in a number of art fairs and received awards for his work; he also founded the first of a series of art fairs at La Fonta Nella Hall, Rome, in 1959. After graduating in 1961, he returned to Syria where he taught painting and decoration at the Higher Institute of Fine Arts (now the Faculty of Fine Arts), Damascus.


Kayyali’s life was plagued by depression. His psychological state is often linked to his interest in subjects related to the struggle of the common man. After an extended stay in his home country, he travelled to Rome, in 1977 – in an attempt to further revive his interest in painting – but returned to Aleppo a year later where he lived in solitude and became addicted to tranquillizers. Kayyali died in Harasta Hospital, Damascus, in 1978, after suffering severe burns, allegedly from a cigarette that set fire to his bed.

 While studying in Italy Kayyali met Fateh Moudarres with whom he represented Syria at the 1960 Venice Biennale. From 1961 to 1965 he exhibited his work in both Syria and Italy. In 1967 he displayed a collection of thirty charcoal drawings in an exhibition titled For the Sake of a Cause, held at the Damascus Arab Cultural Centre, later touring the country.


He participated in several exhibitions during the 1970s; these include the People’s Hall for Fine Arts, Damascus, 1974; Gallery One, Beirut, 1975; Arab Culture Fair (with Moudarres), Montreal, 1976; National Museum of Aleppo (with Moudarres), sponsored by the Association of Fine Arts, 1976; People’s Hall for Fine Arts, Damascus, 1976 and 1977. Exhibitions of his work after his death include: National Museum of Aleppo, 1979; Umayad House for Letters and Arts and the Ministry of Culture, Aleppo, 1989; Al-Sayed Hall at Damascus city under the auspices of Minister of Culture, Dr Najah al-Attar, 1994, and ItaliaArabia, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, 2008. His art work is held in private and public international collections including Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, and the National Museums of Damascus and Aleppo.