Mortimer Luddington Menpes, RI, RBA, RE (British, 1855-1938)
At the sugar water stall signed 'Mortimer Menpes' (lower right); titled on the reverse watercolor and oil over charcoal on board 16 1/4 x 12 7/8in (41.2 x 32.7cm)
The Australian-born Menpes moved to London in 1875, where he pursued formal art studies at the South Kensington School of Art. During a sketching tour through Brittany, he befriended James McNeill Whistler, who began instructing him in the art of etching, a medium in which he ended up being very prolific. Under Whistler's influence, Menpes abandoned his formal studies and continued working under his mentor's tutelage, becoming instrumental in the etching revival.
Menpes' friendship with Whistler came to an abrupt end in 1887, when Menpes was commissioned by the Fine Art Society to record his travels through Japan. Upon his return, he showed his new paintings in a one-man show at Dowdeswell Gallery that opened to great acclaim. His newly-found success prompted Menpes to move into a new house, which he decorated in the Japanese style, a move that further infuriated Whistler on grounds that Menpes copied his style.
After 1902, Menpes received further commissions to paint for magazines in various parts of the South and the Far East. His illustrations would be published in travel books by A. & C. Black, along with the works of other painters, who would supply the public demand for illustrated travelogues and advice for suitable sketching grounds. (Kenneth McConkey, "Memory and Desire, Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century," Yale University Press, 1995, p. 78).