Ashley Bryan (1923–2022) was an artist, author, and teacher who wrote and illustrated over forty children’s books. From spirituals to African folktales to the work of Black poets and novelists, these books focused on Black life, history, and creativity. Through them, Bryan shared the poetry, stories, and songs he loved with young audiences.
One of the writers most important to him was the poet Langston Hughes (1901–1967). In 2015 Bryan paid tribute to Hughes with Sail Away, a book pairing original collages with Hughes’s poems about the sea. This exhibition explores the creation of Sail Away, as well as Hughes’s and Bryan’s long and fruitful engagement with the themes of seas, rivers, oceans, and other aquatic subjects. From Hughes’s memoir The Big Sea to Bryan’s vibrant depictions of boats, sailors, and fish— plus the occasional mermaid—in his many children’s books, both men found perpetual inspiration in the world of the water.
Ashley Bryan and Langston Hughes: Sail Away is made possible by the Lucy Ricciardi Family Exhibition Fund, Agnes Gund, and the Caroline Morgan Macomber Fund, with support from Mo and Anjali Assomull, The Lunder Foundation – Peter and Paula Lunder Family, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, and Dian Woodner.