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Past Exhibitions


'The birds’ colors were mirrored in the waters' by Ashley Bryan

Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan

April 1, 2017–January 21, 2018

Author and artist Ashley Bryan’s remarkable career spans half a century, during which time he has published more than fifty titles. This exhibition celebrates his work and showcases the breadth of his creative output.


Click on an image below to learn more.


Artist, author, and educator Ashley Bryan (American, born 1923) says he can’t remember a time when he was not drawing and painting. His unending creative zeal has fueled a long and prolific career.

At a young age, Bryan noticed the lack of children’s books with African American characters. Bryan is committed to filling the void in black representation by creating books about the African and African American experiences.

Bryan’s art is as varied as his stories. His accomplished draftsmanship is evident, whether he is drawing with pencil to create meticulous renderings, printing with cut linoleum to make vibrant celebrations of linear movement, or using tempera in colorful paintings that simulate his block prints and impart a similar visual intensity. In addition to his works on paper, Bryan also creates puppets from found objects and returns to one of the earliest forms of visual narrative in the stained-glass windows he fashions from sea glass and papier-mâché.

This exhibition showcases the breadth and depth of Bryan’s creative output, from the dynamic figure drawings he made while serving as a soldier in World War II, to his first published book in 1967, to his 2016 book Freedom Over Me, awarded a Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.

About Ashley Bryan

Born in 1923, Ashley Bryan grew up in the Bronx during the Great Depression. His parents emigrated from Antigua in the Caribbean and settled in New York after the First World War. Bryan began making books at the age of six and has never stopped. Trips to the public library—where he sought out folktales, fairy tales, novels, biographies, and poetry—fueled his passion for storytelling. There were, however, few opportunities to identify with African Americans, a problem Bryan determined to address in his work.

Drawing helped Bryan maintain his humanity, even when drafted from art school into a segregated unit of the U.S. Army during World War II, where he served in the D-Day invasion. Bryan later studied philosophy at Columbia University, won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Germany, and taught art in high schools and universities. In the summer of 1946, while attending Maine’s Skowhegan School of Art, he visited Acadia National Park and saw the Cranberry Isles; he has called this island community home for the past sixty years.

Bryan illustrated a volume of poems by the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore in 1967. That book, Moon, for What Do You Wait? became Bryan’s first published book. He has continued publishing books ever since, now with more than fifty titles to his name.


Stop by our Greene Family Learning Gallery and create your own story with Ashley Bryan’s characters. Six puppets inspired by the artwork of Ashley Bryan are ready for your imagination. The puppets were created for us by our friends at the Center for Puppetry Arts.

Ashley Bryan holding Beautiful Blackbird puppet

Organization and Support

Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan is organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Massachusetts, in partnership with the Ashley Bryan Center.

Support for the High Museum’s presentation is provided by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation and the Inaugural Grandparents Circle of Support: Spring and Tom Asher, Jane and Dameron Black, Lucinda W. Bunnen, Anne Cox Chambers, Ann and Tom Cousins, Shearon and Taylor Glover, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., Joy and Tony Greene, Ellen and Tom Harbin, Mary Ellen and John Imlay, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Jane and Hicks Lanier, Rene and Jim Nalley, Margaret and Terry Stent, Margaretta Taylor, and an anonymous donor.

This exhibition is made possible by

Premier Exhibition Series Partner

Exhibition Series Sponsors

Premier Exhibition Series Supporters
Anne Cox Chambers Foundation, The Antinori Foundation, Ann and Tom Cousins, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Jane and Hicks Lanier, Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters
Barbara and Ron Balser, Corporate Environments, Peggy Foreman, James F. Kelly Charitable Trust, Jane Smith Turner Foundation, The Lubo Fund, Margot and Danny McCaul, Joyce and Henry Schwob

Generous support is also provided by
Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Howell Exhibition Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund