Brinton Turkle

Brinton Turkle (1915–2003) grew up in Ohio, where he made visits to the art studio of his mother’s friend, Gertude Alice Kay, the famous Golden Age illustrator (also represented in the Museum’s collection). That experience proved a prophetic early art education. After working for a decade in advertising in New York City, Turkle submitted his first children’s book manuscript, Obadiah the Bold (1965), encouraged by his friend Ezra Jack Keats. Turkle went on to illustrate 81 more books, adeptly working in a variety of media. His stories and poetic imagery capture both the history and nuance of place and his deeply rooted Quaker values. 

In 2016, The Carle presented the exhibition A Friend Among Us: The Art of Brinton Turkle, which featured eight picture books Turkle wrote and illustrated, including his 1970 Caldecott Honor title Thy Friend, Obadiah. Turkle’s three children generously donated their father’s work to the Museum.

Illustration of boy running down street holding hat.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Obadiah the Bold (Beautiful Feet Books), 1965. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 2018 The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Turkle set his four Obadiah stories on the island of Nantucket in the year 1805 (he had been enchanted by the island’s shingled houses and cobblestone streets during a weekend visit). Nantucket was home to a large Quaker community in the 18th century. Turkle, too, was a member of the Religious Society of Friends. 
 
Illustration of family walking along white fence.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Obadiah the Bold (Beautiful Feet Books), 1965. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 2018 The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Illustration of boy and man looking off balcony and pointing.

A familiar feature of Nantucket architecture is the widow’s walk, a platform built atop a roof to provide open views to the sea. In this scene, Father shares stories about Obadiah’s grandfather, a brave mariner who sailed around Cape Horn four times. 
 

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Obadiah the Bold (Beautiful Feet Books), 1965. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 2018 The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Illustration of cowboys dancing to fiddler.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for The Fiddler of High Lonesome. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1968 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of cowboys walking into moonlight.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for The Fiddler of High Lonesome. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1968 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of man picking up boy by the collar.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for The Fiddler of High Lonesome. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1968 Brinton Turkle.

Turkle joked that The Fiddler of High Lonesome is probably the only book in history where the artist fought to have it printed in black and white rather than color. He wanted the artwork to match the story’s “dark” mood. 
 
Illustration of boy flying kite.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Sky Dog. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1969 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of boy with dog.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Sky Dog. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1969 Brinton Turkle.

Illlustration of boy with seagull.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Thy Friend Obadiah (Beautiful Feet Books). Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1969 Brinton Turkle.

Thy Friend Obadiah is a charming tale about Obadiah and a seagull who befriends him, much to the boy’s dismay. The story was inspired by an incident Turkle witnessed during a visit to Nantucket: a seagull with a fisherman’s bobber wound around its beak. Unable to help, Turkle was long distressed about the bird’s plight; in the story, Obadiah comes to the rescue.
Illustration of sick boy receiving tea.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Thy Friend Obadiah (Beautiful Feet Books). Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1969 Brinton Turkle.

Turkle employs a low perspective to dramatic effect: glowing light from an unseen fire bathes the scene in golden hues and casts long shadows across the room. Turkle was awarded a Caldecott Honor for his sensitive watercolors in Thy Friend Obadiah
Illustration of boy helping seagull on cobblestone street.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Thy Friend Obadiah (Beautiful Feet Books). Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1969 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of rural scene with carriage and windmill.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for The Adventures of Obadiah. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1972 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of boy pulling lion's tail.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for The Adventures of Obadiah. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1972 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of bear eating out of bowl in four panels.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Deep in the Forest. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1976 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of dim house interior.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Deep in the Forest. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1976 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of two children running.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Rachel and Obadiah (Beautiful Feet Books), 1978. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 2018 The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Illustration of sail boat pulling into harbor.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Rachel and Obadiah (Beautiful Feet Books), 1978. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 2018 The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Illustration of two children talking to tall men in town center.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Rachel and Obadiah (Beautiful Feet Books), 1978. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 2018 The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Illustration of person with cat on beach looking for junk.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Do Not Open. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1981 Brinton Turkle.

Illustration of person on beach looking at huge black hyena.

Brinton Turkle, Illustration for Do Not Open. Gift of the Brinton C. Turkle Family Collection. © 1981 Brinton Turkle.