Born in Borgerhout, Belgium in 1883 Gastemans attended the Antwerp Academy for a short while as a young man. Even though he received instruction from Jacobs and Verhaert he was, for the most part, a self-taught painter. Around 1905 he left the Academy and started teaching art as a member of the influential art group ‘Als ik Kan’. At the outbreak of the First World War he, along with many other artists, writers and composers, left Belgium for Southern Spain. Residing in Granada and Segovia he initially traveled to the coast and painted harbor scenes much in the style of his contemporary and friend, Richard Baseleer. Later however, he concentrated more on the people of his adopted country.
Works by Emiel Gastemans can be seen in Belgium at the museums of Antwerp, Brussels and Gent and well as in the Royal Collection.