NASHVILLE, Tenn. (September 4, 2019)—The Frist Art Museum presents Eric Carle’s Picture Books: Celebrating 50 Years of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” an exhibition of more than one hundred original artworks by one of the most acclaimed and beloved illustrators of our time. Drawn from the Collection of Eric and Barbara Carle and organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, the exhibition will be on display in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from October 18, 2019, through February 23, 2020.

Eric Carle (b. 1929), creator of more than seventy books, is world renowned for combining charming stories and colorful forms that appeal to young readers and adults alike. His signature artistic technique is collage, made by hand-painting sheets of tissue paper and then cutting, assembling, and gluing pieces onto illustration board.

The exhibition spans five decades of Carle’s picture-book career—from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, his 1967 collaboration with author Bill Martin Jr., to The Nonsense Show, Carle’s playful ode to Surrealism, published in 2015. It pays special tribute to the 50th anniversary of Carle’s most popular book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and offers an in-depth look at his artistic process and the personal significance of many of his stories.

For half a century, Carle has inspired children to fall in love with books. While his stories are often lighthearted, they teach essential lessons, too. As children read about animals, families, and fables, they also learn their colors, letters, and numbers. Additional design elements—such as holes, flaps, and sounds—make reading accessible, multisensory, and fun.

Twenty-three of Carle’s books are represented in the exhibition. Published in 1969, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was just the second book that Carle both wrote and illustrated himself. Fifty million copies have sold and the book has been translated into more than sixty languages. The 50th anniversary golden edition includes an afterword by Dolly Parton, who shares Carle’s passion for children’s literacy. Like many of his other titles, The Very Hungry Caterpillar reflects Carle’s lifelong interest in the natural world, an appreciation he learned from his father. The caterpillar’s story is also a metaphor for childhood and growing up. “Many of Carle’s stories are rooted in his own life and are inspired by family members and friends, including Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me and Friends,” says Frist Art Museum Curator Trinita Kennedy.

Carle did not plan on a career in children’s books. He was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1929 and moved to Stuttgart, Germany, when he was six. He graduated from art school in Stuttgart and, for over a decade, worked in New York City as an art director and graphic designer. “Everything changed in the late 1960s when Bill Martin Jr., a respected educator and author, noticed one of Carle’s magazine advertisements featuring a red lobster,” says Kennedy. Martin had found the artist for his next book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, propelling Carle from working as an advertising executive to becoming a world famous author and illustrator.

This exhibition is the Frist’s first ever celebrating a children’s book illustrator and, like Carle’s books, it is designed with kids in mind. “Artwork will be hung lower than our norm to engage small visitors. Copies of Carle’s books will be shelved in cozy nooks where families can read his stories together while surrounded by original artwork,” says Kennedy. In addition to English copies of the books, there will be Braille and world-language editions, with an emphasis on the most common languages spoken and studied in Nashville, such as French, Kurdish, Somali, and Spanish. An interactive family guide in English and Spanish offers both in-gallery and at-home learning activities as well as biographical information about Carle.

A short film showing Carle working in his studio provides insight into his innovative process, and a video of Carle reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar creates a virtual storytime with the author.

“All good children’s books also appeal to adults,” says Kennedy. “Visitors to this exhibition who are fine arts enthusiasts will recognize in Carle’s work affinities with European modernism, from Henri Matisse’s collages to the German Expressionist’s emotional use of color. Carle revels in the wordplay, visual puzzles, and nonsense of Surrealism as well.”

Exhibition Credit

Eric Carle’s Picture Books: Celebrating 50 Years of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” was organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Massachusetts.

Public Programs

Thursday, October 17
Curator’s Perspective: “Eric Carle: His Life and Legacy” presented by Ellen Keiter, chief curator, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
6:30 p.m.

Frist Art Museum Auditorium
Free; first come, first seated

Join Ellen Keiter for this lecture on the renowned author and illustrator Eric Carle. The first part of this program will explore Carle’s training as a graphic designer, his early career in advertising, and his artistic influences. Then, Keiter will discuss Carle’s seminal children’s books and artistic techniques, highlighting his lasting contributions to children’s literature.

Ellen Keiter is chief curator at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where she oversees all aspects of The Carle’s curatorial department, including the acquisition, care, research, and interpretation of the museum’s collection and its robust exhibition program. Since joining The Carle four years ago, Keiter has significantly expanded the museum’s national and international outreach through traveling exhibitions, and she has been awarded prestigious state and federal grants for improved collections care and visitor engagement. Keiter previously served as director of exhibitions at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York, and as curator of exhibitions at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.

Thursday, November 7 or Saturday, November 9
Educator Workshop: Eric Carle’s Picture Books
9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Frist Art Museum Studio B
$30 members; $35 not-yet-members (all materials, gallery admission, parking validation, continental breakfast, and lunch included)
Open to educators of all subjects, pre-K–12. Limited to 20 participants. Register at by November 4.

During this workshop, examine work by author and illustrator Eric Carle. Participate in gallery tours and studio activities, receive teaching materials, and discuss curriculum connections.

Saturday, November 23
Studio Workshop: Eric Carle–Inspired Collage presented by Turnip Green Creative Reuse

1:00–5:00 p.m.
Frist Art Museum Studio A
$50 members; $60 not-yet-members (all supplies, gallery admission, and parking validation included). 18+ only. Space is limited. Register at by November 18.

Join Turnip Green Creative Reuse for a collage workshop inspired by Eric Carle’s illustrations. Learn about Carle’s process on a tour of the exhibition Eric Carle’s Picture Books: Celebrating 50 Years of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Then join TGCR teaching artists to make your own nature-inspired collage. Practice some of Carle’s painting and collaging techniques by reusing tissue paper and other found objects to depict your own land-, sea-, and skyscapes.

Turnip Green Creative Reuse is a pay-what-you-wish retail store and green gallery that offers educational resources and artist support. Its mission is to foster creativity and sustainability through reuse, keeping valuable materials out of our landfill and getting them back to artists, teachers, students, and anyone else interested in minimizing waste and maximizing inspiration.

Sponsor Acknowledgment
The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Connect with us @FristArtMuseum #TheFrist #FristEricCarle

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Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”

About the Frist Art Museum
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Art Museum’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Art Museum exhibitions. Information on accessibility can be found at Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members, $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and college students with ID, and $8 for active-duty and retired military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit

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