The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Elizabeth Robins Pennell, 1855-1936

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1855.02.21
Place of Birth: U.S.A.
Date of Death: 1936.02
Place of Death:


Elizabeth Robins Pennell was an American writer, who in 1884 married Joseph Pennell, an American illustrator, printmaker and writer.


Following their marriage the Pennells settled in London where Elizabeth Pennell became art critic of the Star newspaper (succeeding her husband) and later the Daily Chronicle and Woman magazine. They also became friends with Whistler. Both believed Whistler to be central to avant-garde art and were determined to write an account of the man, his art and their friendship with him. Whistler, flattered by the attention, happily provided biographical material for them. Their biography, although heavily biased towards their artist-hero, is a valuable document containing many important reminiscences of the man by his contemporaries.

In 1907 the Pennells were involved in a legal battle with Whistler's sister-in-law and executor Rosalind Birnie Philip, who resented their possessive approach. In 1921 the Pennells organised a large exhibition of Whistler-related material at the Library of Congress, Washington, where they later bequeathed their collection.


Pennell, Joseph, and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London, 1908; Pennell, J., and E. R. Pennell, 'Whistler as a Decorator', Century Magazine, vol. 83, February 1912, pp. 500-13; Pennell, J., and E. R. Pennell, The Whistler Journal, London, 1921; Pennell, E. R., The Art of Whistler, New York, 1928; Pennell, E. R., The Life and Letters of Joseph Pennell, 2 vols, New York, 1929; Fern, Alan M., 'Joseph Pennell', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 23 April 2002).