Oil on board; signed and labelled.
10.25 x 7.5 inches
When Australian-born Menpes turned twenty, his family moved back to Britain. After meeting Whistler on a sketching tour in Brittany in 1880, and under his influence, he developed a fascination with all things Japanese. Menpes actually went to Japan in 1887, the first of many travels East. Whistler never did go, and, rather jealously, suggested that Menpes had ‘stolen’ his ideas from him. In Japan, Menpes discussed the techniques and methods of Japanese art with Japanese artists, and observed and painted scenes of Japanese town-life, customs and rituals. In his book Japan, a Record in Colour (A&C Black, 1901), he later wrote: ‘It is the artist’s ambition that she [a geisha] should be a picture, perfect in every detail, and the geisha is always a picture, beautiful beyond description’. The instrument on the ground in this dramatically lit painting is a shamisen, a three-stringed instrument played with a plectrum. All geisha had to learn to play it.