MENPES, Mortimer

Mortimer Menpes  British 1855-1938

Mortimer Menpes etcher, print maker and painter. Although Australian by birth, he lived in England from an early age. He studied at South Kensington Art School in 1875-78 under Poynter, winning the Poynter Prize. In 1880 he was invited by the Fine Art Society to exhibit his etchings with other leading print makers such as Seymour Haden, Tissot and Whistler. It was due to this exhibition that Menpes meets Whistler and they become friends. In 1881 he became elected to the Society of Painter-Etchers and he helped Whistler to print his ‘Venice Set’’, a series of etchings. Two years later (1883) Menpes went on a working holiday to St.Ives with Whistler, Sickert and Roussel. In 1885 he won the Gold Medal at the International Exhibition at Crystal Palace and became an elected member of the Society of British Etchers. In 1886 Whistler and Menpes founded the New English Art Club, Whistler as President and Menpes as a founding member. In 1887 he visited Japan to work on a series for an exhibition at Messrs Dowdeswell Art Gallery. It was after this visit and when Menpes drew acclaim for his work, that he and Whistler fell out. Being extremely unhappy for being outcast by Whistler and his circle of friends, he takes to travelling abroad, extending his own career. It is during this period of time that he visited Holland, Cairo, then travelling by Indian Pacific Cargo boat he travels to Mexico. On his return a year later, Menpes has an exhibition of his paintings. After returning from Japan,his second visit, 1896, he goes to Africa and covers the Boer War as an war artist. It is here that he meets Lord Roberts, Cecil Rhodes and Winston Churchill. After Whistler’s death in 1903, Menpes wrote a book on him.  As a very prolific artist, Menpes etched more than 500 plates and his subjects varied widely. He was very well travelled throughout Europe, the Far East and Central America. From his extensive travelling and watercolour studies, he was able to illustrate many travel books for A.C. Black at the turn of the century.

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