Born into a wealthy Alexandrian family, Mahmoud Said first studied jurisprudence at the French School of Law in Cairo in the 1910s. During his studies, he became interested in painting, and joined the studios of Italian painters Amelia Casonato da Forno and Arturo Zanieri, before travelling to France to study in Paris, briefly at the Académie Julian. Though he worked for almost thirty years as a lawyer and then a judge, he continued to paint in his free time until he quit law in the late 1940s and devoted himself to art completely. He is considered the foremost painter of the ‘Pioneer’ generation of Egyptian artists, renowned for his bold, richly coloured portraits, nudes, and landscapes. He painted continuously until his death in 1964.