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The Menpes Children

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 300
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 68 x 101 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: M. Menpes, 'Whistler as I Knew Him', London, 1904
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.261; M.257; W.212
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)


baby, children, garden, portrait.


Whistler's original title is not known. It has always been known by the same title, for example:

'The Menpes Children' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 3

3: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 212).


A young girl with shoulder-length hair, wearing a small round beret, is seated on a chair, at left. Behind her, to right, stands a girl wearing a sunbonnet and short smock-dress. Both these girls are facing right. To their right stands a girl with straggly shoulder-length hair, wearing an apron over her short dress, and behind her, at far right, a baby is seated on the ground. These two face the viewer. Behind the children is the edge of a lawn and a suggestion of bushes.


Wedmore described the etching as: 'A vivacious sketch of children on a lawn', and added : 'The little girl behind the child in the chair is not one of the Menpes family.' 4

4: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 212).

Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1860-1938) and Rosa Mary Menpes (1855-1936) had seven daughters and two sons. The family included Maud Rose Goodwin (1878-1958), Mortimer James (1879-1900), Dorothy Whistler (1883-1973), Walter (1886-1945), and Claude (1892-1963).
The etching probably includes Maud and Dorothy, and just possibly the Menpes's fourth child, Walter, born on 21 September 1886. Their older son, Mortimer James Menpes, is not shown.
Dorothy was painted by Whistler in Note in Flesh Colour and Grey: Portrait of Miss Dorothy Menpes y260 in 1885. Dorothy married Ivan Charles Flower and had two children, Pamela (d.1969) and Richard Herbert Gordon Menpes Flower (1910-1979). Walter married Joan, and they had one son, Michael Mortimer Menpes; both parents died in 1945, and Michael, ca 1994. Claude married Winifred Kate (d. 1972) who inherited the collection of Menpes's works, which went to a gallery in Reading, UK.


The Menpes family lived in 'Osborn Lodge' in Fulham, London. It had a detached studio in the garden where it is said Menpes helped Whistler to print the Venice etchings. The garden may be the site of this etching.


Whistler etched a number of portraits of children at all periods of his career. It is not known if this was a commission from Menpes, but it was certainly printed and published by Menpes as a frontispiece to his memoir of Whistler. 5

5: Menpes 1904 A[more].