Joseph Pennell (1857-1926)

Pennell was born in Philadelphia where he studied at School of Industrial Art and the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1884 he was commissioned by the Century Magazine to supply a series of drawings of London and Italy. He and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to London where they co-authored a number of books and articles, often featuring their extensive European travels. In London he became friends with a number of writers and artists including Henry James, H. G. Wells, John Singer Sargent, and most importantly, James MacNeill Whistler, who was to significantly influence his work. Whistler asked Pennell to accompany him to Paris and aid in the printing of his series of etching of Parisian shop fronts. Inspired by Whistler, Pennell then produced a series of deeply atmospheric aquatint nocturnes of London and the River Thames. Pennell and his wife wrote a biography of Whistler in 1906 and despite the opposition of his family over the right to use his letters it was published in 1908. In the early years of the 20th Century the Pennells made several trips to America resulting in a famous group of iconic etchings and mezzotints of the buildings of the growing New York. — Sarah Colegrave

Biographical Material

Illustrations for Walter Besant's East London (a selection)

Illustration for Mariana Schuyler Van Rensselaur's English Cathedrals (one of many)





Ackroyd, Peter. London: The Biography. London: Vinatge, 2001. (See 548ff., on the later history of the docklands.)

Besant, Walter. East London. London: Chatto & Windus, 1901.

Fern, Alan M. "Joseph Pennell (1857-1926)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Viewed 11 April 2008.

Houfe, Simon. The Dictionary of 19th Century Book Illustrators. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club, rev. ed. 1996.

Museum in Docklands, West India Quay, London (See here. The museum, in a converted warehouse, has excellent sections on the Victorian period.)

Rensselaur, Mariana Schuyler Van. English Cathedrals. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1892.

White, Jerry. London in the Nineteenth Century: A Human Awful Wonder of God. London: Cape, 2007. (See 181ff., on the docklands in the nineteenth century.)

Last modified 11 March 2021