Venice: Shipping is an etching from 1883 by American master printmaker, Joseph Pennell (1857-1926). It is pencil signed in the lower center margin and was printed on antique laid paper. The reference is Wuerth 72 who listed the edition at only 4 impressions before the plate was destroyed. The old Albert Roullier gallery label that accompanies this work has the alternate title of Ships off San Georgio [sic] and notes that this impression was printed by the master printer of etchings, Frederick Goulding. This is a strong impression with rich black inks and lots of platetone. The platemark measures 7-15/16 x 10-3/16 inches.
This view is of the Venice harbor and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Pennell chose the 16th century, Andrea Palladio designed, Church of San Giorgio Maggiore as the central focus. A sailboat placed in front of the church brings the viewer’s attention forward to the anchored sailing vessels with tall spars. In Venice: Shipping Pennell gives a nod to Whistler: heavy diagonal and vertical lines sketch the massive ships, lightly etched lines suggest two gondolas passing nearby, while other faint lines hint at other modes of transport on this navigable harbor.
Joseph Pennell was born on July 4, 1857, in Philadelphia to Quaker parents. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art. Considered by many to be the dean of American printmaking, Pennell was a lithographer, etcher, author, educator, lecturer, and illustrator.
By 1882, Pennell was illustrating for Scribner's Magazine and The Century and received a commission for illustrating a book on Tuscany. In 1884 he traveled to Europe and settled in London where he produced numerous books, both as an author and as an illustrator, many of them in collaboration with his wife, author Elizabeth Robins Pennell. In 1912, Pennell left London for Panama where he created a series of lithographs rendering the building of the Panama Canal. He voyaged via steamer along the Pacific Coast to San Francisco where he created numerous etchings of the city by the bay and, while there, influenced the founding of the California Society of Etchers.
In 1915, Pennell chaired the group Jury for Etchings and Engravings of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition where over 2,200 prints were exhibited and an entire gallery was devoted to his work. Pennell was a member of numerous organizations, including the Society of Painter-Etchers in London and first president of the Senefelder Club. His tutelage of artists and scholars continue with his books Etchers and Etching and Lithography and Lithographers, and the bequest of his collection of prints and drawings to the Library of Congress.
Pennell produced more than 900 etchings and mezzotints and more than 600 lithographs on architectural and landscape subjects. He distinguished himself as one of America’s most talented etchers as well as a promotional genius who helped spur the revival of printmaking and print collecting during the first two decades of the 20th century.
Joseph Pennell died in Brooklyn Heights, New York on April 23, 1926.