Honeysuckle Street

Honeysuckle Street by Mortimer Menpes. 1901. Watercolor. Source: Japan: A Record in Colour, facing p. 206. It seems fitting that the last painting here should be of a street scene:

When you just arrive in Japan you are at once impressed with the perfect placing of everything about you. You find yourself surrounded by a series of beautiful pictures; every street that you see on your journey from the station to the hotel is a picture; every shop front, the combination of the many streets, the town in relation to the mountains round about it—everything you chance to look at forms a picture. In fact, the whole of Japan is one perfect bit of placing. [83]

At this particular juncture in his last chapter, Menpes comments on the help he was given when working out-of-doors on busy thoroughfares:

I have had many experiences, when sketching the streets of Japan, of the people’s politeness. A policeman becoming interested in my work would help to keep clear a space in the road, and never dream of overlooking my work or of embarrassing me in any way. In one street of a village he actually had the traffic turned down another way, so as not to interfere with my sketching. [206]

Of course, he goes on to draw an uncomplimentary parallel with the situation at home — "Fancy a policeman in England diverting the traffic simply because an artist wanted to sketch a meat shop!" (206).

Menpes must have suffered from culture shock again when he returned to London. But he took a good deal of Japan home with him, and any negative feelings on his return would have been offset by the new challenges of decorating his Cadogan Gardens house with all the items acquired, or made especially for him, during his fruitful stay. — Jacqueline Banerjee

The inner hall of Menpes' London home.

Related Material


Menpes, Dorothy. Japan: A Record in Colour. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1901. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Libraries. Web. 13 July 2019.

Created 13 July 2019