Polychronis Lembesis was born on the island of Salamis, where he spent his childhood, memories of which later influenced his artistic work.
He studied painting initially at the School of Fine Art, Athens under Nikiforos Lytras and later in 1875 continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, with the financial backing of the politician Dimitrios Voulgaris. There he was taught by Wilhelm Lindenscmidt and Ludwig von Lofftz. While in the Bavarian capital he studied the masterpieces of German Museum collections. In Munich he became a friend of the already well known Greek painter Nicholaos Gysis.
In 1880, Lembesis returned to Athens and opened his atelier in the Thission district. Although he was a master in landscape painting he became known more for his skills in portraiture. He painted portraits of aristocrats and politicians of his age such as Kapsalis, Santarozas, Serpieris, Levides and many more.
Additionally he 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.
Plychronis Lembesis 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. In the only obituary written about him, in the Spring of 1913, Pavlos Nirvanas said: ‘An honest and sincere artist has died almost out of tact exactly as he did for his whole life’.
Some decades after his death his work has been reevaluated, and today Lembesis is considered one of the most important representatives of the Munich School movement. His works are found in many public and private collections, notably: The National Gallery, Athens, The Athens Municipal Gallery, The Leventis Gallery, The Averoff Gallery and The National Bank of Greece.