Island Boy: Original Illustrations for Barbara Cooney’s Classic Children’s Book

March 19, 2016—June 19, 2016
North Carolina Museum of Art
This exhibition presents all the original artwork by Barbara Cooney for her classic children’s book Island Boy. Barbara Cooney (1917–2000) is one of the most beloved American authors and illustrators of children’s books.

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Her numerous publications include Ox-Cart Man (1979), for which she won her second Caldecott Medal, and Miss Rumphius (1982), which won the National Book Award. Cooney has described Island Boy as her “hymn to Maine.” Published in 1988 and loosely based on a 19th-century memoir, Island Boy tells the story of Matthias, who grows up on Tibbett’s Island, sails the world, and finds love and family, only to return to the island in the end.  The story is told with heart-breaking simplicity—as much with pictures as words.  The color illustrations, though possessing the naive charm of folk art, are well researched, evoking a strong sense of time and place. 

Organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art in collaboration with the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine. This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions. Research for this exhibition was made possible by Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.

Barbara Cooney, Lobster Scene, 1988, from Island Boy (Puffin Books, 1988), acrylic on gesso-coated Chinese silk, 8 1/4 in. x 10 1/8 in., Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, Bequest of Barbara Cooney, 2000.17.2.11, © 1998 Barbara Cooney Porter Royalty Trust

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