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The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Presents A Friend Among Us: The Art of Brinton Turkle

Amherst, MA (November 30, 2016) – The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to present A Friend Among Us: The Art of Brinton Turkle opening December 13 and running through May 7, 2017. Visitors are invited to step back in time with the Caldecott Honoree and his eight tales of American lore. Turkle’s work as both author and illustrator is filled with meticulous details accurate to the time and place of his stories. Whether set on the island of Nantucket or in the mountains of Appalachia, his stories and poetic imagery capture both the history and nuances of place. Turkle follows the escapades of a young Quaker boy in his Obadiah series, offers a surprising twist on a favorite fairy tale in Deep in the Forest, and sprinkles magic realism throughout the pages of The Sky Dog. All work on display is from the Museum’s permanent collection, generously donated by the artist’s three children.

Turkle’s Ohio Beginnings
Brinton Turkle (1915-2003) was born and raised in Alliance, Ohio. From a young age, he loved making art and had a passion for art and words. He later said that becoming an author and illustrator seemed almost unavoidable. Growing up, Turkle had the opportunity to visit the studio of illustrator Gertrude Alice Kay—who happened to also be a good friend of his mother’s. “Going to her studio was one of the most exciting things I can remember of my days as a young boy in Alliance.” During his visits, he studied her process, hoping to find some secret to unlock the art of illustration. This unique experience shaped his relationship to illustration, and much of his work taps into his hometown and upbringing.

Turkle’s American Lore

Turkle’s most well-known work is his series of four Obadiah books started simply as a sketch for Valentine’s Day. He sketched a Quaker boy holding a Valentine behind his back—but from that illustration, Turkle knew this little boy had a story to tell. For a while, Turkle tried to set the story of the boy in Pennsylvania, but inspiration just didn’t strike. It wasn’t until he visited Nantucket, MA, for the first time and saw a town untouched by time, that the story of Obadiah was born: “I was upstairs in my room one night after eating too much lobster and woke up with a stomach ache and a story about a little boy and a telescope.” The story became Obadiah the Bold, published in 1965. Through the Obadiah series, Turkle paints a beautiful story of Nantucket. From the docks to the boy’s home to the townscape, the Obadiah books construct a different time as readers walk next to the young boy on his adventures. In the series, the mores and traditions of the early 19thcentury Quaker community on Nantucket play important narrative roles.

In 1970, Turkle received a Caldecott Honor for his second book in the series, Thy Friend, Obadiah. The story was based on an event Turkle witnessed during his first visit to Nantucket: wandering the docks, he saw a seagull with a fisherman’s bobbin wound around its beak. Distressed, Turkle approached the bird, but it flew away before he could get close. With the image of this helpless seagull stuck in his mind, Turkle wrote Thy Friend, Obadiah, wherein an unlikely bond forms between a seagull and the young boy. Using a combination of eye level and bird’s-eye perspectives, Turkle not only tells the story of a reluctant Obadiah and his seagull friend, but also of an encompassing, beautiful Nantucket filled with soft muted colors.

The Sky Dog (1969), on the other hand, is a contemporary seaside story of a boy who notices a dog-shaped cloud in the sky, only to later discover a stray white dog, which he is convinced was the cloud from earlier. Turkle’s use of setting in The Sky Dog is striking, featuring beach vignettes along with the main plot. Turkle even inserts his self-portrait among the numerous beachgoers.

Turkle’s strong belief in revision and the process of editing are exemplified in Deep in the Forest (1976). Although originally narrated through text, his illustrations made words unnecessary (Turkle claimed, “it’s a book that I kind of unwrote.”) This twist on the traditional Goldilocks story creates a simultaneously real and fantastical world, as readers follow a bear cub through the home of a human family. Turkle once said that when writing he uses “all sorts of tricks to capture the attention of my young audience—suspense, humor and even charm, when I can muster it.” The illustrations flow across back-to-back pages, creating worlds of stories through images—sometimes, as is the case with Deep in the Forest, without the need for any words at all.

Turkle once expressed his admiration for his field of work, stating that “I think it’s a tremendous privilege to be working with children…” His profound respect, love, and integrity for picture books are reflected in each book he worked on, and his stories of kindness and family continue to touch the minds and hearts of children all over America.

Of Special Interest:

Brinton Turkle (American, 1915-2003)

Preliminary illustration for cover
Obadiah the Bold [Viking Press, 1965]
Watercolor and charcoal pencil on paper, mounted on illustration board

Brinton Turkle (American, 1915-2003)

The first time the boy saw the sky dog…
The Sky Dog [Viking Press, 1969]
Graphite and charcoal on vellum

Brinton Turkle (American, 1915-2003)

Then he saw it down at the wharf
Thy Friend Obadiah [Viking Press, 1969]
Watercolor and charcoal pencil on paper

Brinton Turkle (American, 1915-2003)

(4) vignettes of baby bear with bowls on table
Deep in the Forest [E.P. Dutton & Company, 1976]
Charcoal pencil and ink on vellum

Exhibition Programming:

Saturday, April 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm
Gallery talk with Chief Curator Ellen Keiter and Turkle family members.

About the Museum:

The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The only full-scale museum of its kind in the United States, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.

Eric Carle and his wife, the late Barbara Carle, co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Carle is the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 40,000-square foot facility has served more than half a million visitors, including 30,000 schoolchildren. The Carle houses more than 13,000 objects, including 6,600 permanent collection illustrations. The Carle has three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and schoolchildren. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and Master’s degree programs in children’s literature with Simmons College. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m. Open Mondays in July and August and during MA school vacation weeks. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for children under 18, and $22.50 for a family of four. For further information and directions, call (413) 559-6300 or visit the Museum’s website at www.carlemuseum.org

IMAGES ARE AVAILABLE FOR REPRODUCTION. For additional press information and/or images, please contact Sandy Soderberg, Marketing Manager (413) 559–6315/ sandys@carlemuseum.org

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