Girl with the pigeons, before 1879
Polychronis Lembesis, after studying at the School of Fine Arts under Nikiphoros Lytras, was a student at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, while at the same time he studied the works of prominent painters in the galleries of the Bavarian capital. A great influence was exerted on the young artist by the works of Murillo, both in terms of subject-matter and of expression. On his return to Athens around 1880, he turned towards portraiture and landscape, depicting corners of his homeland, bathed in light and redolent of his love for his native land.
The Girl with the Pigeons must have been produced in the last year of the artist's stay in Munich, in 1879, as is to be concluded from a comparison with another of his dated paintings, Rabbits, which is in the National Gallery. Another feature which points to this dating is the fact that a similar work was produced by the painter Adolf Echtler, a fellow-student of Lembesis at the Munich Academy, which was exhibited the same year in the Glaspalast Exhibition with the title Memory of Venice. The fact that different painters concerned themselves with the same subject should come as no surprise, since artists often take a familiar theme as a starting-point for an exercise in composition or colour. In any event, the colour work confirms this conclusion. The carefully executed, smooth colour surfaces, with the soft transitions of tone which we see in Rabbits, in The Girl with the Pigeons are transformed into free broad brush-strokes, positioned spontaneously on the picture - a practice which came to be established in the work of Lembesis after his return to Athens.