Barbara Cooney Collection, 1986-1996

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Volume: .25 linear feet

Organization/Arrangement: Organized as a single series.

Biographical Note: Barbara Cooney and her twin brother were born on August 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Russell Schenck Cooney and Mae Evelyn Bossert. Cooney disliked living in the suburbs – she much preferred her grandmother’s house in Maine, where she spent summers. Cooney’s mother, an amateur impressionist painter, encouraged her own artistic development, providing art supplies and space to experiment. Cooney attended boarding school as a child, and later attended Smith College, where she studied art history and earned a degree in 1938.

She decided that illustrating books would be a suitable career, so she attended classes on etching and lithography at the Art Students League in New York City. She received a few assignments here and there, but at the onset of World War II, she put her career on hold. Recalling an earlier trip to Germany prior to the war and the horrors that she had seen there, she was compelled to join the Women’s Army Corps during the summer of 1942. After entering as a second lieutenant, she was honorably discharged due to her marriage to Guy Murchie Jr. and the pregnancy of their first child, Gretel, who was born in 1944. In 1945 they bought a farm in Pepperell, Massachusetts. where the couple ran a children’s camp in the summertime. After the birth of their second child, Barnaby, the couple divorced in March of 1947.

It was at this time that Cooney returned to book illustration. She also remarried in 1949 to Charles Talbot Porter, and had two children, Charles Talbot Jr. and Phoebe Ann. Cooney illustrated several books per year, and she wrote some of her own as well. It was for her adaptation of Chaucer’s "The Nun’s Priest Tale," called Chanticleer and the Fox, that she received the Caldecott Medal in 1959. She traveled extensively to add verisimilitude to her illustrations, including trips to Mexico, Finland, France, Switzerland, Spain, and Ireland. In 1980 she won the Caldecott Medal for a second time for her work in Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall. At this time her son built her a house in Damariscotta, Maine, where she spent the rest of her life. A beloved icon of Maine and indeed national children’s literature, Cooney died on March 14, 2000. She was 83 years old.

Description: A collection of newspaper and magazine articles featuring author and illustrator Barbara Cooney, her Maine connections and her published material.

Access Restrictions: None

Please cite as: Barbara Cooney Collection, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland, Maine

Container List:
001.  Periodical articles relating to Barbara Cooney, 1990s