- Other Title
- Japanese musicians in an interior with a shamisen
- Media category
- Materials used
- oil on wood
- 26.0 x 19.5 cm board; 44.5 x 37.5 x 4.5 cm frame
- Signature & date
Signed l.l., black oil "Mortimer Menpes". Not dated.
- Purchased with funds provided by the Marshall Bequest and the David George Wilson Bequest for Australian Art 2021
- Grand Courts
- Accession number
- Artist information
Mortimer L Menpes
Works in the collection
Following the enforced end of Japan's isolationism in the 1850s, several artists associated with the impressionist and aesthetic movements in America and Europe, such as James McNeill Whistler, began collecting Japanese art, design and fashion and incorporating Japanese motifs and techniques into their works. One of Whistler's followers, the Australian expatriate artist Mortimer Menpes, travelled to Japan and witnessed its art and culture first-hand in 1887.
Menpes' 'Geisha musicians' 1887-88, an intimate impression of a pair of seated entertainers, was inspired by this trip. Set against a darkened background, and accompanied by a shamisen resting on the floor, they wear the fashionable kimono and makeup of the period. Their pale faces, elaborately styled black hair, and red and blue kimonos embellished with floral motifs coalesce into a balanced and harmonious arrangement of form, colour, and tone.
The custom frame, which features a frieze panel embellished with a geometric, basketweave style design, was conceived as an important element in the overall aesthetic experience of the work, an idea popularised by Whistler during the 1870s and 80s. The painting's attractiveness and small scale suggests that it was also intended to be a luxurious object within a fashionable domestic realm.
Other works by Mortimer L Menpes
See all 11 works