One of my favorite artists of all time is Clementine Hunter. A self-taught artist born, raised, and lived her entire life in and around Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Clementine (pronounced Clem-en-teen) Hunter was born in 1886 and didn’t start painting until she was in her fifties. When her hard day’s work was over, and the other artists who came to Melrose Plantation to gather would all go to sleep, she would use whatever supplies she could to paint on whatever she could find.
Never traveling far from Melrose Plantation and turning down a trip to the White House to meet President Carter, Clementine’s work eventually garnered some attention in galleries and museums, particularly in the South — some of which she couldn’t attend in person because she was Black.
Clementine began selling her artwork, with an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 total paintings created, for as little as 25 cents, she would charge 50 cents more than 5 or 10 dollars as she once said she hated taking people’s “hard-earned money.”
Over the weekend, a total of eleven Clementine Hunter artworks sold at auction for $63,250. The most expensive work went for $11,000, a painting of beautiful red and pink zinnias with a yellow background. The least expensive painting for $2,000, a small painting of a wash tub, beautifully positioned in the center of the composition with some green grass and a neutral blue and tan sky background.
Who knows how much Clementine actually sold these for. A few have messages directly on the back of the work — a wedding present to Toosie in 1964 and a woman who went to Melrose Plantation with her mother in 1962 to buy three paintings directly from the self-taught artist. One thing is for sure, Clementine Hunter wasn’t in it for the money. She wanted to tell her story, and we’re much better for it.
View all Clementine Hunter works sold at auction below: