Consuela Kanaga, portrait photograph of Pennerton West, ca. 1950s. © Consuela Kanaga estate. Image courtesy Stuart Friedman, New York School Art Gallery.
Pennerton West, Eskootal, c.1945. Etching, plate: 11 ¾ x 8 ¾ in, sheet: 15 ¾ x 11 3/8 in. Courtesy Dolan/Maxwell.
Pennerton West, Morning Joy (alternately titled Carnival), ca. 1950. Engraving, plate: 9 x 6 in., sheet: 14 13/16 x 11 ¼ in. Courtesy Dolan/Maxwell.

92. Pennerton West

Life Dates1913-1965
Place of BirthNew York, NY, USA
Place of DeathNew York, NY, USA
Birth NamePennerton West

Pennerton West, a descendant of the American history painter Benjamin West, was born in New York. Not much is known about her early personal life, since both West and her husband, Dr. John Herma, a psychologist who studied human resources at Columbia University, died in their fifties and had no children.1 Her artistic training took place in the 1930s at the Art Students League, Cooper Union, and Hans Hofmann’s school. West came to Atelier 17 around 1946 and became proficient with the studio’s key techniques. In Hayter’s introduction to the studio’s show at Leicester Galleries in March 1947, he praised West for exploiting biting out, a technique in which areas of the plate are left unvarnished and exposed to strong acid bite.2 The resulting effect was quite expressive and produced high, white relief markings on the printed sheet, as seen in [On Such a Night]{.underline} (1946). During this period West also earned a name for herself as an abstract artist. Her first solo exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery in March 1947 included paintings, drawings, and Atelier 17 prints.3 Although the Norlyst show was not a resounding critical success, West earned another solo show in September 1951 at the newly founded Tibor de Nagy Gallery, and critics praised her expressive painting style. As a result of this show, MoMA’s International Council purchased her impressive seven-print portfolio made at Atelier 17.4 At some point, West and Herma moved to a home near Mohegan Lake in Westchester County, New York, where her family owned property. West remained close with a few Atelier 17 colleagues, especially Worden Day, whom she let work in a barn on her property and store several large tree logs that Day used for her mandala prints.5 Before her death in 1965, West had a few additional solo shows at Tibor de Nagy (1953), Condon Riley (1958), and Willard-Lucien Gallery (1960).

Selected Bibliography

A. N. “Pennerton West.” Art Digest 27 (January 15, 1953): 16–17.

B. G. “Five Pictures.” Art News 51 (June 1952): 97–98.

Devree, Howard. “Abstract Round-Up.” New York Times, January 18, 1953.

H. D. H. “Pennerton West.” Art News 57 (November 1958): 15.

“In the Local Galleries.” New York Times, October 19, 1947.

L. C. “Pennerton West.” Art News 50 (September 1951): 43.

———. “Pennerton West.” Art News 51 (January 1953): 48–49.

McBride, Mary Margaret. “Do Unexpected Thing.” The Decatur Daily Review, August 23, 1935.

“Pennerton West.” Art News 46 (November 1947): 58.

Pennerton West. Kalamazoo, MI: Four Winds Gallery, December [1973].

Reed, Judith Kaye. “Pennerton West Abstracts.” Art Digest 22 (October 15, 1947): 34.

The Women: An Exhibition of Paintings by Contemporary American Women. Oxford, Ohio: Western College, 1945.


  1. An amusing syndicated newspaper article profiles the twenty-four-year-old West, who was then driving a taxi in New York and wrangling drunken passengers. Mary Margaret McBride, “Do Unexpected Thing,” Decatur Daily Review, August 23, 1935, 15.
  2. Stanley William Hayter, Atelier 17: New Etchings and Engravings by Members of the Group (London: The Leicester Galleries, 1947), 9.
  3. Judith Kaye Reed, “Pennerton West Abstracts,” Art Digest 22 (October 15, 1947): 34; and “Pennerton West,” Art News 46 (November 1947): 58.
  4. The Museum of Modern Art, New York deaccessioned the portfolio in 2000 and donated it to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, New Brunswick, N.J., where it is the only known complete set in existence.
  5. Worden Day to Una Johnson, August 2, 1959, Records of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs (1878–2001), Brooklyn Museum, New York. West also offered her barn to the young artist Paul Resika, who grew up in nearby Mohegan Lake. Paul Resika, telephone interview with Christina Weyl, February 12, 2017. Resika also spoke about West in his interview with Jennifer Samet, October 31, 2002, p. 16.