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Mortimer Luddington Menpes, 1860-1938

Nationality: Australian
Date of Birth: 22 February 1860
Place of Birth: Port Adelaide
Place of Death: Pangbourne


Mortimer Luddington Menpes was a painter and etcher. He married Rosa Mary Grosse in 1875 and had two daughters. They had a son, Mortimer James (b. 1879). Their second daughter was named in honour of JW, Dorothy Whistler Menpes (1884-1973), who was her godfather. She later became Mrs Flower.


Menpes studied at the Adelaide School of Design with John Hood. In 1875 he settled in London where he married. In 1878 he began attending the South Kensington School of Design. Edward John Poynter was a fellow student at this time. In 1880 he made a sketching tour of Brittany and also met JW. He left the art school to become a pupil and studio assistant of JW. It was in JW's studio that Menpes learnt to etch. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from this time on. His works show the influence of JW but also of the sparse style of the Realists and of the bold patterning of Japanese art.

It was probably Menpes who persuaded JW to exhibit with the Anglo-Australian Society of Artists in 1885. JW gave Menpes Note in Flesh Colour and Grey: Portrait of Miss Dorothy Menpes y260 ca 1885-1886. Menpes also owned The Blue Band y262, Note in Blue and Green y307, Study in Brown y313, Draped Study y320, Portrait of William M. Chase y322 and White and Grey: La Cour de l'hôtel, Dieppe y325.

In 1881 Menpes was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and in 1885 to the Society of British Artists, a society which elected JW its President the following year. However, he resigned in 1888, a month before JW was forced to resign, antagonising JW who described him as 'the early rat who leaves the sinking ship'.

He was one of the founding members of the New English Art Club in 1886. Like JW, he was a member of The Arts Club from 1889 to 1896. In 1897 he was elected a member of the Institute of Painters in Water Colours and in 1899 to the Institute of Oil Painters.

In 1887 Menpes travelled to Japan and on his return held his first one-man show at Dowdeswell's gallery in London. 25 Cadogan Gardens, S.W., was the address of the famous 'Japanese House', purchased by the artist in 1888 and lavishly decorated in the Oriental style. JW and Menpes fell out in 1888 over the house, which JW felt copied his ideas and principles. It was auctioned in 1900, after which Menpes retired to Kent. With his daughter, Rose Maud Goodwin Menpes, he was co-founder of the Menpes Press of London and Watford.

In 1900 Menpes became a war artist in South Africa for Black and White. From 1902 to 1917 he travelled widely, visiting Japan, India, Mexico, Burma, Morocco and Egypt, and producing illustrated books of the countries he visited.


Menpes, Mortimer, Whistler as I Knew Him, London, 1904; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Roberts, C., 'Mortimer Menpes: The Man and his Methods', Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 101, 1900, pp. 703-11; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Johnson, J., and Anna Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Maas, Jeremy, The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; Smith, Rosemary T., 'Mortimer Menpes', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 15 January 2003); (accessed 2004).