Joseph Pennell

American author, illustrator and printmaker (1857 - 1926) associated with James McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)

Famous for his etchings of New York City and industrial works, Pennell was a prominent illustrator, author and print-maker. Born into a hard-working Quaker family in Philadelphia, USA, he attended the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art in 1877. He later studied at the Fine Art School there and was appointed as an illustrator at Century Magazine.

Pennell’s wife Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855-1936) was a successful writer and art critic. They travelled to England in 1884 and became life long friends with Whistler. Although a generation apart, Whistler became the inspiration of Pennell’s life. Whistler entrusted Pennell and his wife to write his biography, published in 1908.

In 1908 Pennell travelled to New York to make illustrations for John Van Dyke’s book ‘The New New York’, 1909. He was astounded by the skyscrapers and how much the New York City skyline had changed. Further visits to Pittsburgh and Mahanoy City inspired Pennell’s next series of etchings which he described as the ‘Wonder of Work’. Impressed by steelworks, oil refineries and coal mines, Pennell admired these structures as symbols of design, industry and power. Like Whistler’s ‘Thames Set’, some 50 years earlier, they stand as a record of the progress of the industrial revolution across the Atlantic.
  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Nationality
  • Born
  • Place of birth
    Americas: Northern America: USA: Pennsylvania: Philadelphia County: Philadelphia
  • Died
  • Place of death
    Americas: Northern America: USA: New York State: New York City: Brooklyn
  • Cause of death
    Unknown or unrecorded
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