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.
Nelson received a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and upon graduating with 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.