British Painter, 1855-1939
was a war artist and engraver, author, printmaker and illustrator. Menpes was born at Port Adelaide on 22 February 1855, the second son of property developer James Menpes, who with his wife, Ann, had settled in Australia in 1839. Educated at a private school, he attended classes at the Adelaide school of design, but his formal art training began at the South Kensington School of Art in 1878, after his family had moved back to England in 1875. Edward Poynter was a fellow student at the school. Menpes first exhibited at a Royal Academy exhibition in 1880. Over the following 20 years 35 of his paintings and etchings appeared at the Academy. He set off on a sketching tour of Brittany in 1880 and thereby met James McNeill Whistler, becoming his pupil and at one stage sharing a flat with him at Cheyne Walk on the Embankment in London. Here he was taught etching by Whistler, whose influence, together with that of Japanese design, is evident in his later work. His 1887 trip to Japan led to his first one-man exhibition at Dowdeswell's Gallery (1878-1912) in London. Menpes bought a property at 25 Cadogan Gardens in Sloane Square in 1888 and decorated it in the Japanese style. Whistler and Menpes quarreled in 1888 over the interior design of the house, which Whistler felt was a brazen copying 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. With the war's end in 1902 he travelled widely, visiting Burma, Egypt, France, India, Italy, Japan, Kashmir, Mexico, Morocco, and Spain and producing illustrated books of those countries. His book on the Delhi Darbar of illustrated Curzon's grand spectacle of 1903. He married Rosa Mary Grosse in London in 1875. She too, was from Australia and died 23 August 1936. They produced a son, Mortimer James (b. 1879) and two daughters, Rose Maud Goodwin and Dorothy Whistler. Dorothy, Whistler's godchild, married a Mr. Flower and died in Minehead in July 1973 aged 89.
ID: 28472 Flower of the Tea 1887-8
Oil on wood 26.7 x 17.1 cm
(10 1/2 x 6 3/4 in)
Tate Gallery London (mk63)