In 1857-59 he studied under K. Piloty in Munich and Rome, he worked mainly in Munich. Copied paintings by old masters and imitated their technical care and color techniques. A favorite portraitist of official circles of Bismarck's Germany (about 80 portraits of the O. E. L. of Bismarck, the Hermitage, Leningrad, and other museums). L. — the author of the popular portraits of German culture: Wagner, T. Mommsen (both in the National gallery, Berlin), W. Bush (Hermitage).
Together with Franz von Stuka and Friedrich August von Kaulbach is considered a representative of the Munich school of fine art.
Lenbach, gained fame through his realistic portraits such as "Portrait of Otto von Bismarck". The work of Munich is presented in the municipal gallery in the Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich in Schrobenhausen.
In 1853, Lenbach was accepted into the Munich Academy of arts. In 1860 he was invited to a new art school in Weimar, where he taught until 1862 To the end of the XIX century, Lenbach becomes a leading character in the artistic life of Munich, and the circle of friends-painters of Munich, which included Wilhelm Busch, Franz Defregger and Rudolf EPP, dominated the cultural life of the city.
Recognized and in demand in higher circles of society portraitist, Lenbach has achieved wealth. He could afford to hire the architect Gabriel von Seidl's for building his huge Villa in 1887-1891., which now receive the name "Lenbachhaus". Villa in an eclectic style based on the Italian Renaissance along with a garden of its size can match with small lock.
Currently in the "Lenbachhaus" is the City gallery in the Lenbachhaus. In addition to the pictures of Munich and other artists of the XIX century in the gallery hosted significant collection of works of the artistic group "the Blue rider".
Von Lenbach buried in the cemetery of the Munich westfriedhof underground station.