The Department of Library Special Collections recently acquired a portrait of Kentucky literary giant Robert Penn Warren. Painted by freelance illustrator Alison Davis Lyne of Adairville, Kentucky, the portrait will be housed in the Robert Penn Library. Lyne was approached by Historic Todd County, Inc. about painting several well known figures from Todd County for inclusion in a book titled T is for Todd. Besides Warren, Lyne painted Dorothea Dix, an early 20th century advice columnist, and Natachee Momaday, a 20th century Native American author. After volunteering to paint Warren, Lyne contacted WKU’s Library Special Collections about obtaining a photograph of Warren in a relaxed pose. With several thousand photographs to choose from in the Warren Collection, the curator chose one that met her parameters. In the color photo, Warren wears a tan sports jacket with a rust colored polo shirt. He stands at ease, with his hands in his pockets and with a slight grin on his face. As Lyne said upon seeing it: “This photo would be just perfect!” In the portrait, Warren stands tall in the foreground juxtaposed against the undulating Todd County landscape with a red tailed hawk gliding overhead. Warren was always known as Red to his closest associates. In one corner of the portrait, the artist has created an obelisk of sorts from Warren’s books. Warren published over fifty books ranging from poetry to textbooks and remains the only author to win Pulitzer Prizes for both poetry and fiction.
The Robert Penn Warren Library in the Department of Library Special Collections houses Mr. and Mrs. Warren’s private libraries which they maintained at their Fairfield, Connecticut home. It includes over 2,000 volumes of classical and modern Western literature and history. It also houses the collections of Mr. Warren’s biographer Joseph Blotner and his bibliographer James Grimshaw. The library also boasts several thousand Warren family photographs, which are cataloged and can be found in KenCat. All the books in the library are cataloged and can be found in the library’s online catalog. The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives houses several Warren-related collections. Search TopSCHOLAR for those entries.
Alison Davis Lyne is best know as a children’s book illustrator. To see more of her work, go to Lyneart. Her husband, Frank, is a sculptor.