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This exhibition highlights Bryan’s portrayals of strong and resourceful women in his art. It was originally held in conjunction with Writing Across Genres, an exhibition of works by African American women writers in the Joanna Banks collection, which was on display in the Kamin Gallery on the first floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Many of these works were made for books of poetry, including Freedom Over MeABC of African American Poetry, and Aneesa Lee and the Weaver’s Gift. Older women are reflected in preparatory drawings for The Dancing Granny as well as sketches of Bryan’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Bryan, who was an inspiration for him. Two works were made for his good friend, Eva Brussel [Mason], a fellow student at Cooper Union, with whom he corresponded for decades, beginning during his time serving in the U. S. Army in World War II. Yet others accompany the music in two books of Black American spirituals, Walk Together Children and I’m Going to Sing, in which both the music and the illustrations are linoleum block prints.

A major exhibition of Ashley Bryan’s works is planned for the spring of 2023, the one hundredth anniversary of Bryan’s birth.

Learn more about the Ashley Bryan Archive at Penn

Explore the Exhibit



First and foremost, I would like to thank Ashley Bryan and the board of the Ashley Bryan Center for entrusting Penn with Ashley’s amazing archive. It has been wonderful working with them and we look forward to a long and productive collaboration sharing Ashley’s legacy.

Thanks go as well to the exhibition team for the design and installation of the original exhibition; to the conservation team for creating the original mounts; to Emily Martin for photography of the installation and Andrea Nunez for photography of the individual works; to Eric Dillalogue, for facilitating digital photography for the website; and to John Pollack who, with assistance from Leslie Vallhonrat, created this online exhibition. It was sad to see the exhibition close in mid-March, so it is exciting to be able to share it with you now.

Lynne Farrington, Exhibition Curator