Clementine Hunter

CLEMENTINE (pronounced Clem-en-teen) HUNTER was a self-taught Black folk artist from the Cane River region of Louisiana, who lived and worked on Melrose Plantation. Hunter was born into a Louisiana Creole family at Hidden Hill Plantation near Cloutierville, in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. She started working as a farm laborer when young, and never learned to read or write. In her fifties, she began to sell her paintings, which soon gained local and national attention for their complexity in depicting Black Southern life in the early twentieth century. (Via Wikipedia)

January 1887, Cloutierville, LA — January 1, 1988, Natchitoches Parish, LA

CLEMENTINE HUNTER Melrose Plantation (circa early 1960s to 1988) via New Orleans Museum of Art
CLEMENTINE HUNTER Melrose Quilt (1960) via Smithsonian
CLEMENTINE HUNTER Abstract with Photograph of Artist (1975) via American Folk Art Museum

Clementine Hunter lived and worked most of her life on the Melrose cotton plantation near Natchitoches, Louisiana. She did not start painting until the 1940s when she was already a grandmother. Her first painting, executed on a window shade using paints left behind by a plantation visitor, depicts a baptism in Cane River.

Hunter painted at night, after working all day in the plantation house. She used whatever surfaces she could find, drawing and painting on canvas, wood, gourds, paper, snuff boxes, wine bottles, iron pots, cutting boards, and plastic milk jugs.

Working from memory, Hunter recorded everyday life in and around the plantation, from work in the cotton fields to baptisms and funerals. She rendered her figures, usually Black, in expressionless profile and disregarded formal perspective and scale.

Though she first exhibited in 1949, Hunter did not garner public attention until the 1970s when both the Museum of American Folk Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibited her paintings.

Even with such success, Hunter chose to stay in Louisiana, working at Melrose Plantation until 1970 when she moved to a small trailer a few miles away on an unmarked road.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

See more work by Clementine Hunter.

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