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Meet Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an award-winning American author and artist based in Los Angeles, California. His paintings are in the permanent collections of several notable institutions including the United States House of Representatives, the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame, United States Postal Museum, the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, and most recently, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the World Trade Center, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Nelson received a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and upon graduating with the highest honors, he was summoned by DreamWorks Pictures to create conceptual artwork for Steven Spielberg’s Oscar® nominated feature, “Amistad” and the animated feature, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”. He is the recipient of multiple awards from the Society of Illustrators in New York, including the prestigious Hamilton King Award as well the 2020 recipient of the Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Award for illustration. He adds this to multiple Caldecott Honors, Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Awards, New York Times Best Illustrated Book Awards, several NAACP Image Awards, and an Olympic Art Bronze medal, among others.

Mr. Nelson has also created artwork for a host of distinguished clients, including but not limited to National Geographic, HBO, Nike, Disney, Hennessy, and Sony Music, for whom he painted the cover artwork for Michael Jackson’s posthumously released album, “Michael,” which was listed in the Guinness Book of Records® for the largest poster in the world. Nelson’s artwork was also featured on the cover of recording artist Drake’s multi-platinum selling album, “Nothing Was the Same”; over a dozen commemorative US postage stamps honoring American legends, such as Major League All-Stars Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, NBA great Wilt Chamberlain, and most recently Motown’s Prince of Soul Marvin Gaye, which altogether have sold several million stamps.

Nelson’s masterful artwork also frequently graces the cover of The New Yorker magazine, paying tribute to historical and contemporary American figures in New York City and abroad, including the magazine’s dandy, Eustace Tilley. Additionally, Nelson has also authored and illustrated several award-winning New York Times Best Selling picture books including, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball”, which was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans”. Currently, he has over 30 children’s book titles in print with a global circulation in the millions, and in multiple languages. Nelson’s list of illustrated children’s books include titles by Debbie Allen, Will Smith, Spike, and Tonya Lee, and Delores Jordan, mother of NBA great Michael Jordan.

Nelson’s primarily figurative paintings and sculptures focus on historical narratives and heroic subjects in American culture and are often informed by the Old Masters like Ingres, Michelangelo, Hopper, and Tanner. His sumptuous settings and characters, rich palette, and realistic, yet painterly technique speaks to both modern urban realism and masterly works of turn-of-the-century American painters.

E D U C A T I O N
1996 BFA Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY

S E L E C T E D S O L O E X H I B I T I O N S
2015 “Words and Pictures: Illustrated Works by Kadir Nelson”. The Arts Council. Fayetteville, NC
2014 “A Light In Harlem”. RJD Gallery. Sag Harbor, NY
2014 “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans”. Richard Stockton College, Galloway, NJ
2014 “Words And Pictures”. Hearne Fine Art. Little Rock, AK
2013 “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans”. The Society of Illustrators Museum. New York, NY
2008-2011 “WE ARE THE SHIP: Original Paintings by Kadir Nelson.” Traveling exhibition.
Piedmont Arts Association. Martinsville, VA
South Bend Museum of Art. South Bend, IN
Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. Pittsburgh, PA
The Carle Museum. Amherst, MA
Miami Dade College Freedom Tower. Miami, FL
Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Fort Wayne, IN
Museum of Texas Tech University. Lubbock, TX
The Arts Council. Fayetteville, NC
Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI
Louisville Slugger Museum, Louisville, KY
Michelson Museum of Art. Marshall, TX
Negro Leagues Museum. Kansas City, MO
2007 “The African-American Experience: Children’s Book Illustrations By Kadir Nelson”. Akron Art Museum. Akron, OH
2005 “Ellington Was Not A Street”. Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Fort Wayne, IN. Fort Wayne, IN

G R O U P E X H I B I T I O N S
2018 “Telling a People’s Story: African American Illustrated Literature.” Miami University, Oxford OH.
2018 “Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards.” National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Abilene, TX.
2017 “Collecting Inspiration: Contemporary Illustrators and Their Heroes” Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Amherst, MA.
2015 “Revolutions II: The Art of Music”. Forest Lawn Art Museum. Glendale, CA
2015 “Looking Both Ways”. Peninsula Fine Arts Center. Newport News, VA
2011 “Triple Play”. Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI
2009 “Picture Perfect: Art From Caldecott Award Books, 2006-2009”. Chicago Art Institute. Chicago, IL
2006 “Art. Process: From Person, To Pencil, To Published”. Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Amherst, MA.
2005 “All the Stories Are True”. Smithsonian Anacostia Museum. Washington DC
2003 “Shades Of Greatness”. The Negro League Baseball Museum. Kansas City, MO
2002 “Black Romantic”. The Studio Museum in Harlem. Harlem, NY
1992 “San Diego/Yokahama/ Tijuana Art Exchange”. San Diego, CA/Yokahama, JAPAN/ Tijuana, MEXICO

S E L E C T E D A W A R D S A N D H O N O R S
2016 Silver Medal, Society of Illustrators, New York, Editorial Category
2016 Silver Medal, Society of Illustrators, New York, Uncommissioned category
2015 Gold Medal, Society of Illustrators, New York, Uncommissioned category
2014 NAACP Image Award, Los Angeles, CA, “Nelson Mandela”, Outstanding Literary Work – Children
2014 Gold Medal, Hamilton King Award, Society of Illustrators, New York, Best Illustration of the Year
2014 Hamilton King Award, Society of Illustrators, New York
2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2013 New York Times Best Illustrated Book, New York, “Nelson Mandela”
2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2012 Audie Award, AudioFile Magazine, Portland, ME, “Heart and Soul” audiobook
2012 Silver Medal, Society of Illustrators, New York
2011 Silver Medal, Society of Illustrators, New York
2009 Sport Artist of the Year, United States Sports Academy, Mobile, AL
2009 Coretta Scott King Author Award, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator , American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2009 Robert F. Sibert , American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2008 Gold Medal, Society of Illustrators, New York
2008 NY Times Best Illustrated Book, New York Times, New York, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball”
2008 Caldecott Honor, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2007 Caldecott Honor, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2007 Coretta Scott King Award, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2007 NAACP Image Award, NAACP, Los Angeles, CA
2005 Coretta Scott King Award, American Library Association, Chicago, IL
2005 Once Upon a Book Award, Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles, CA
2005 Gold Medal, The Society of illustrators, New York
2004 NAACP Image Award, NAACP, Los Angeles, CA“Just The Two Of Us”
2002 Silver Medal, The Society of illustrators, New York, NY
1998 Gold Medal, The Society of illustrators, New York

S E L E C T E D C O L L E C T I O N S
National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC
R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, LA
United States House of Representatives, Washington DC
Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City, MO
The National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY
The San Diego Padres, San Diego, CA
San Diego Hall of Champions, San Diego, CA
The Estate of Michael Jackson
The United States Postal Service
The Coca Cola Corporation
Westmont College
Sears, Roebuck & Co.

S E L E C T E D B I B L I O G R A P H Y
Davis, D. “Wilt the Stilt Becomes Wilt the Stamp”. New York, NY: New York Times. December 4, 2014. Two commemorative Forever postal stamps of Wilt Chamberlain commissioned by the USPS.
Mouly, F. “Cover Story: Nelson Mandela, Hero”. The New Yorker. New York, NY. May 7, 2013. Oil painting commissioned to commemorate life of Nelson Mandela, entitled “Madiba”.
Sullivan, J. “Picturing Baseball’s Negro League Greats”. The Boston Globe. Boston, MA. February 24, 2012.
Myers, W. “Sweet Land of Liberty”. The New York Times. New York, NY. November 10, 2011.
Nolan, A. “For Young Readers: “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans,” by Kadir Nelson”. Washington Post. Washington, DC. September 15, 2011.
Baker, K. “A League of Their Own”. The New York Times. Sunday Book Review. New York, NY. June 15, 2008.
Davis, D. “ Stepping up the the Plate ”. LA Times Book Review. Los Angeles, CA. March 30, 2008.
Powell, R. “Kadir Nelson’s Illustrative Bodies”. African American Atelier. Greensboro, NC.
McDaniels III, P. “A Nuturing Romance of Sport”. The International Review of African American Art, Vol. 9, No. 2. Hampton, VA. 2003.

Re-shared from African Creatives / Segun Akano

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