Friday, January 16, 2015

Polychronis Lembesis

Child with rabbits
oil on canvas
103 × 130 cm
National Gallery of Greece

Polychronis Lembesis (1848-1913) was a Greek painter, a member of the Munich School of Greek artists. His work is characterized by a particular skill in achieving perfect chromatic tones and a clarity of design. He admired Murillo, and often used in his works a similar contradiction of vivid light and dark colours to emphasize chromatically the scenes that he painted. He was also known as a painter of religious scenes, to which he devoted himself after 1883. He is considered the most romantic of all the romantic painters of the Munich School.

He was the son of a shepherd from the island of Salamis. He spent his childhood in Salamina, memories of which influenced his artistic work all his life. He studied painting initially at the Athens School of Fine Arts, in 1875 continuing his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich, with the financial backing of a politician. In 1880, he returned to Athens and opened his atelier. Although he was a master in Landscape painting he became known more for his skills in portraiture. He began painting portraits of aristocrats and politicians of his age. He also taught painting to the children of many of his rich clients such as Stephanos Dragoumis, who later became prime minister of Greece. The Dragoumis family supported him for most of his life.

He died very poor and largely unknown as an artist, perhaps due to a shift in Athenian artistic taste from the Munich School to more modern artistic movements inspired from Paris. Some decades after his death his work has been reevaluated, and today he is considered one of the most important representatives of the Munich School art movement.