Urgent Museum Notice

Clementine Hunter

A black-and-white photograph of a dark-skinned older woman, shown from the neck up. She has short, dark hair, held away from her face by a white head wrap. She has a stoic expression, and is looking away from the camera against a light background.

Photo attributed to Carolyn Ramsey; Courtesy of Watson Memorial Library, Cammie G. Henry Research Center (the Mildred Hart Bailey Collection), © The Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana

1887–1988

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.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Clementine Hunter
  • Birth

    Cloutierville, Louisiana, 1887
  • Death

    Natchitoches, Louisiana, 1988
  • Phonetic Spelling

    KLEH-mehn-teen HUHN-terr

Works by Clementine Hunter

Untitled

Entirely self-taught and immensely prolific, Clementine Hunter earned critical acclaim for thousands of vibrant paintings.

Hunter, who labored her entire life on plantations in central Louisiana, began painting only in her late 50s. Most of her paintings chronicle her memories and experience of plantation life: harvests, baptisms, funerals, and the like.

This untitled painting, however, functions as a self-portrait. Incorporating the...

Rendered in a childlike style, the painting depicts a dark-skinned woman in a blue dress offering a bouquet of red flowers to a photograph of the artist affixed to canvas. The woman stands next to a tree surrounded by red flowers with blue sky and gray clouds above her.