Harper Pennington was born in Baltimore to a prominent Maryland family. After studying drawing at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with the renowned teacher and artist Jean Leon Gérome, in 1880 he traveled to Munich, where the American artist Frank Duveneck's school was well known. Pennington was advised to join Duveneck's winter art class in Florence. While in Italy, he visited Venice and met the flamboyant expatriot artist James McNeill Whistler. Pennington had been a great admirer of Whistler's work since 1876 when he saw The White Girl exhibited in Baltimore. He decided to stay in Venice to study with Whistler, and his artistic skills greatly improved. When Whistler returned to London, Pennington followed a few years later. His technique as a draftsman continued to progress, and he even adopted a monogram similar to Whistler's butterfly. When Pennington returned to America, he became an illustrator for books and magazines.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]