Born in Australia, Mortimer Menpes was a painter and etcher, as well as an artist-war correspondent in South Africa. When he Menpes arrived in London from Australia in 1880, he was apprenticed to James McNeill Whistler, becoming his chief studio assistant and most loyal follower. Later accused by Whistler of plagiarism, however, Menpes set out to study, paint, and learn in a new country first hand, visiting Japan in 1887 and several subsequent times throughout his life.
Menpes admired the Japanese painters who would ponder for hours and sometimes weeks over the placing of every last object in their paintings. The proper placing of objects is not only an exact science, but also it forms almost a religion with the Japanese. When you just arrive in Japan you are at once impressed with the perfect placing of everything about you.(1) Japanese culture and its artistic philosophies of balance, harmony and perfection became a frequent topic amongst London artists and intellectuals of the late 1800s and the focal point of the aesthetic movement.
He exhibited at Baillie Gallery, Dudley Gallery and New Dudley Gallery, Dowdeswell, Fine Art Society, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, Leicester Gallery, New Gallery, Royal Academy, Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, and Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
(1) Mortimer Menpes, Japan A Record in Colour, Transcribed by Dorothy Menpes, Adam & Charles Black, London, p. 83.