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Ashley Bryan Archive

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  • Ashley Bryan at Penn Libraries 1-22-2019 (photo by Eric Sucar)
    Ashley Bryan at Penn Libraries 1-22-2019 (photo by Eric Sucar)
  • Ashley Bryan, Library Tales, drawing, Ashley Bryan Archive
    Ashley Bryan, Library Tales, drawing, Ashley Bryan Archive
  • View of Ashley Bryan's home and studio, Isleford, Little Cranberry Island, Maine (photo by John Pollack)
    View of Ashley Bryan's home and studio, Isleford, Little Cranberry Island, Maine (photo by John Pollack)

In Memoriam: Ashley Bryan, 1923-2022. Learn more.

Renowned artist, writer, storyteller, children's book creator, and humanitarian Ashley Bryan created thousands of drawings, paintings, collages, and linoleum block prints over the course of his long and productive life. His archive, containing hundreds of original works documenting his career, was donated to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries in 2019.

The Archive includes correspondence, drawings, artwork, books, and publication materials. Organization and cataloging of the Archive is underway.


Collection overview and information for researchers

Note: because materials in this collection have not yet been processed and cataloged, research access is limited. For additional information about the Archive at the Kislak Center, please email Lynne Farrington, Senior Curator.

The Ashley Bryan Archive may be roughly divided into these broad categories:

  • Children's book materials and other writings: these include sketches, artwork, drafts, and prepress materials for over fifty published books, as well as unpublished materials.
  • World War II: these comprise over 350 drawings done contemporaneously in Massachusetts, Scotland and France, as well as correspondence to his art-school classmate Eva Brussel.
  • Correspondence: letters from ca. 1943 to the present with family, friends, and fans, and luminaries such as Pablo Casals and Robert Creeley
  • Artwork: Drawings, sketches, and sketchbooks from numerous locations, including the Bronx, Maine, southern France, Freibourg Germany, and Antigua, as well as figurative and portrait studies.
  • Future additions: these will include a large portion of his library, as well as a small selection of his paintings and three-dimensional independent work, including puppets and stained glass.

About Ashley Bryan

Born in 1923, Ashley was raised in the Bronx, NY. At seventeen, he entered the tuition-free Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering, having been denied entry elsewhere because of his race.

Drafted out of art school into the segregated US army at age nineteen, Ashley preserved his humanity throughout World War II by drawing, stowing supplies in his gas mask when necessary. After returning from war, Ashley completed his Cooper Union degree and studied philosophy and literature at Columbia University (1946-50). He returned to France in 1950-53 to study art in Aix-en-Province. In 1950, renowned cellist Pablo Casals agreed to break the vow of silence he had taken after Franco came to power in his native Spain. Ashley was permitted to draw Casals and his fellow musicians during rehearsals in Prades, France, where Casals was in exile. Through the power of Casals’ music sessions, something “broke free” for Ashley: “I found the rhythm in my hand.” He traveled to Germany in 1956 on a Fulbright scholarship, seeking to understand why humans choose war.

After returning to the United States, Ashley taught art at several schools and universities, retiring in the 1980s to Maine’s Cranberry Isles as professor emeritus of Dartmouth College.

Ashley has published more than fifty books.

[adapted from a longer profile available at the Ashley Bryan Center website]

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