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A British painter and printmaker of Australian birth, Mortimer Menpes studied at the Adelaide School of Design with John Hood. In 1875, his family moved to London, and three years later, enrolled at the South Kensington School of Design, studying with Edward John Poynter. In 1880 Menpes went on a sketching tour of Brittany and met James McNeill Whistler. He left art school to study informally with Whistler and became his chief studio assistant and artistic follower. His prints have greater precision than Whistler's and his clientele was drawn from a wider social and theatrical circle. He regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, was elected to the Royal Society of Painter and Etchers in 1881 and became a member of the Society of British Artist in 1885. In 1887 Menpes travelled to Japan and on his return held his first one-man show at Dowdeswell's gallery in London. An inveterate traveler, he created images of people and places from around the world. He produced some of the most comprehensive body of etchings ever completed by a European in the East. In 1888, he designed his "Japanese House" renowned for the many decorative features custom-made by Japanese craftsmen. Menpes and Whistler had a falling out when Whistler accused Menpes of plagiarising his ideas and principles in the design of the house. His travels also led him to produce paintings and prints of Mexico, the Middle East, India, Burma, and China.
Menpes was also very popular as a portraitist in London where some the most famous and powerful figures of the age sat for him. Although he also worked well in oil and watercolor, Menpes excelled at etching. Constantly experimenting, and a master of technique, he always printed his works himself, often varying each image through his choice of ink and paper and by exquisitely subtle wiping. Recent exhibits at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City (Venetian etchings) and Morikami Museum (Japan through Western eyes).