Clementine Hunter

Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) (late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988) 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 20th century. 

Initially she sold her first paintings for as little as 25 cents. But by the end of her life, her work was being exhibited in museums and sold by dealers for thousands of dollars. Clementine Hunter produced an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 paintings in her lifetime. Hunter was granted an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree by Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 1986, and she is the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the present-day New Orleans Museum of Art. In 2013, director Robert Wilson presented a new opera about her, entitled Zinnias: the Life of Clementine Hunter, at Montclair State University in New Jersey. 

Hunter’s work can be found in numerous museums such as the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, the American Folk Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Louisiana State Museum.  

Clementine Hunter’s World is a 2017 documentary directed by noted Hunter scholar Art Shiver. The film celebrates Hunter’s life and artwork through the lens of photographs, oral histories, and the newly resorted African House Murals.] In addition to the film, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture created an exhibition centering on Hunter called “Clementine Hunter: Life on Melrose Plantation. According to Smithsonian American Art curator Tuliza Fleming, the 22 works by Hunter is the largest collection by a single artist at the museum.  In 2019, Louisiana State Legislators passed a resolution that designated October 1 as Clementine Hunter Day. Loletta Jones-Wynder, the director of the Creole Heritage Center at Northwestern State University of Louisiana, created the resolution to honor Hunter’s legacy and impact on the State of Louisiana.