MORTIMER MENPES (1855-1938)

 
"Jugs- Deli, India"

"Jugs- Deli, India"

14 7/8" x 10 7/8", Etching 20148

"Whistler #7"

"Whistler #7"

8" x 6", etching 20151

"Dejeuner al Fresco"

"Dejeuner al Fresco"

6" x 9 1/2", etching 20159

Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1855-1938)

Mortimer Luddington Menpes, was an artist and engraver, author, printmaker and illustrator.

 

Menpes was born in Port Adelaide, South Australia in 1938. He was the second son of property developer James Menpes, who with his wife, Ann, had settled in Australia in 1839.

 

He attended private schools throughout his childhood and attended classes at the Adelaide School of Design, but his formal art training began at the School of Art in London. In 1875 he married Rosa Mary Grosse (also Australian), and the couple settled in London so that Menpes could further his art training. They had a son, Mortimer James (b. 1879) and two daughters, Rose Maud Goodwin and Dorothy Whistler. At school he met Edward Poynter who became a friend and influence. Menpes first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1880, and, over the following 20 years, 35 of his paintings and etchings were shown at the Academy.

 

Menpes became a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (RE) in 1881, Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) in 1885, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) in 1897 and Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) in 1899.

 

Menpes set off on a sketching tour of Brittany, France in 1880 where he met James McNeill Whistler. The two became fast friends and Menpes studied under Whistler for a number of years,  and at one stage even shared a flat with him at Cheyne Walk on the Embankment in London.  They used the flat as a studio where Whistler taught him etching. You can see Whistler’s influence together with that of Japanese design, in his later work. 

 

He made a trip to Japan in 1887 which led to his first one-man exhibition at Dowdeswell's Gallery in London. Menpes bought a property at 25 Cadogan Gardens in Sloane Square in 1888 and decorated it in the Japanese style. Unfortunately this purchase led to a quarrel between Whistler and Menpes in 1888. Whistler felt the design of the house was a brazen copy of his own ideas. The house was sold in 1900, and Menpes retired to Kent.

 

In 1900, after the outbreak of the Boer War, Menpes was sent to South Africa as a war artist for the weekly "Black and White" illustrated magazine. With the war's end in 1902 he travelled widely, visiting Burma, Egypt, France, India, Italy, Japan, Kashmir, Mexico, Morocco, and Spain, and many of his illustrations were published in travel books by A & C Black. His book on the Delhi Durbar was an illustrated record of the commemoration in Delhi of the coronation of King Edward VII.

 

For the last 30 years of his life, Menpes retired to Iris Court, Pangbourne from where he managed his Purley-on-Thames business, "Menpes Fruit Farms". He built 40 large greenhouses to grow carnations and 8 cottages to accommodate the farm workers. He died in Pangbourne in 1938.

 

Biography adapted from multiple sources.

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