MENPES, Mortimer (1859-1938)

MENPES, Mortimer (1859-1938)
painter and etcher
was born at Port Adelaide, South Australia, in 1859. He was educated at a private school under the Rev. Mr Garrett, and did a little work at the school of design, Adelaide. Practically his art training did not begin until he arrived in London in 1878 and began to study at South Kensington. He took up etching, exhibited two dry-points at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1880, and during the next 20 years showed about 35 of his etchings and paintings at the Academy. He was war artist for Black and White in South Africa in 1900. In 1901 he published War Impressions, the first of a series of books illustrated in colour from his sketches with, in most cases, the text written by his daughter, Dorothy Menpes. The series included Japan (1902), World Pictures (1902), The Durbar (1903), World's Children (1903), Venice (1904), India (1905), Brittany (1905), The Thames (1906), Paris (1907), China (1909), The People of India (1910). He wrote and published in 1904 Whistler as I Knew Him, a lively and interesting account of his association with Whistler as pupil and friend. The book was profusely illustrated with reproductions of Whistler's work. He also wrote three little biographies, of Henry Irving (1906), Lord Kitchener (1915), and Lord Roberts (1915). Each of these contains excellent portrait studies by Menpes. During the first few years after 1900 he was much interested in colour reproduction and published a large number of very good reproductions of paintings by the Old Masters, suitable for training. About 1907 the Menpes Fruit Farm Company was established at Pangbourne and he lived there until his death on 1 April 1938. He married about 1880 Rose Grosse who died in 1936. Two daughters are mentioned in connexion with his publications.
Menpes had a dislike of the conventional, was a good raconteur, and was well known as a personality in London. Though his many one man shows were often successful, he did not attain to anything like the front rank as either a painter or an etcher. He could, however, do a swift and characteristic sketch, and much of his illustrative work is good.
The Times, 5 April 1938; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 5 April 1938; A. Graves, The Royal Academy Exhibitors; Who's Who, 1938; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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