Illustration of Black activists.
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The Undefeated: An Exhibition of Original Paintings by Kadir Nelson

We as a people have faced the unspeakable, survived the unmentionable, and triumphed over the unfathomable. As we continue to move forward and beyond our present challenges, let us be reminded that only together will we thrive. Together we will remain Undefeated.
Kadir Nelson

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is proud to announce the opening of The Undefeated: An Exhibition of Original Paintings by Kadir Nelson, with artworks from one of the most decorated picture books of the 21st century. Artist Kadir Nelson won the 2020 Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for his realist paintings, and author Kwame Alexander received a Newbery Honor for the text. The exhibition will be on view November 20, 2021—April 3, 2022.

The Undefeated powerfully unites Nelson’s illustrations with Alexander’s poem about courage and perseverance. Nelson portrays American heroes, past and present, alongside individuals whose names may be lost to history but whose efforts in the fight for human equality live on. He paints figures from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, and the countless African American activists, artists, athletes, musicians, and writers whose contributions have been instrumental in forming American culture.

Against stark white backgrounds, Nelson’s paintings transport readers across generations. He makes connections between the racist killings of yesterday—the four girls murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963—to the police killings of today, represented by a community street memorial. With each turn of the page, Nelson’s figures emerge from the shadows of the past. The book concludes with a radiant image of smiling children.

“We committed to this exhibition in 2019,” says Ellen Keiter, chief curator at The Carle. “We had exhibited Kadir Nelson’s paintings from We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball in 2012, and knew firsthand how magnificent his paintings are in person. You can imagine our excitement when The Undefeated was then awarded the top artistic medals in the field one year later.”

Nelson’s 16 oil paintings are presented in sequential order in The Carle’s Central Gallery. Also included are some of the artist’s sketches for the book, examples of his childhood and teenage artwork, and a display of his illustrated covers for Ebony, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Smithsonian magazines. A reading area offers a large selection of titles by Nelson, who has illustrated more than 30 picture books. They include everything from historical narratives to playful animal tales like If You Plant a Seed. There are also picture books about many of the individuals portrayed in The Undefeated.

“We as a people have faced the unspeakable, survived the unmentionable, and triumphed over the unfathomable,” said Nelson in his Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award speech. “As we continue to move forward and beyond our present challenges, let us be reminded that only together will we thrive. Together we will remain Undefeated.”

This exhibition was organized by the JKBN Group, LLC

About The Museum

The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. A leading advocate in its field, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture-book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.

The late Eric and Barbara Carle co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Carle was the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 43,000-square foot facility has served more than 750,000 visitors, including 50,000 schoolchildren. The Carle houses more than 11,000 objects, including 7,300 permanent collection illustrations. The Carle has three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and schoolchildren. Bobbie’s Meadow is an outdoor space that combines art and nature. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and Master’s degree programs in children’s literature with Simmons University.

The Museum offers digital resources, including art activities, book recommendations, collections videos, and professional development and workshops for online visitors. Learn more at www.carlemuseum.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @CarleMuseum.

For media inquiries, additional press information, and photo requests, please contact Sandy Soderberg at sandys@carlemuseum.org.

Explore Further

Current Exhibition
November 20, 2021 - April 3, 2022
Powerful images and words unite in this Caldecott Medal-winning book.