Against Ruskin: Joseph and Elizabeth Pennell’s Recasting of Venice

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The images of Venice by Philadelphian Joseph Pennell (1857-1926) have never really escaped from James McNeill Whistler’s long shadow. His etchings, drawings, pastels, and lithographs all show the influence of the master. Together with his wife, Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855-1936), he would publish a two-volume biography of his friend (1908).Their allegiance to Whistler and the Barbaro Circle brought the Pennell's to endorse a new image of Venice away from the hegemonic cult of Ruskin pervasive in tourist and travel books about the city. This article seeks to reassess the contribution of both Pennells to this group of erudite intellectuals and reconsider their promotion of a more truthful and intimate representation of Venice beyond the mass of tourists and polished marble façades. Its special focus is on the Pennells’ – Elizabeth’s in particular – antagonistic relationship with Ruskin, whose iconic The Stones of Venice had mourned a city forever lost to tourists, over restoration, and the onslaught of the railroad.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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