Who Was Clementine Hunter?

Quck answer

Clementine Hunter was an African-American folk artist from Louisiana. She was born in 1886 on a plantation and spent most of her life as a farm laborer. In her late 50s, she began painting scenes of everyday life on the plantation using discarded materials like window shades and cardboard. Her artwork depicted the harsh realities of rural life, including cotton picking, baptisms, and funerals. Hunter gained recognition for her unique style and became one of the most celebrated self-taught artists in the United States. Her paintings are now displayed in museums and galleries worldwide, showcasing her talent and contribution to African-American art.

Have you ever desired to create a painting? Simply take out some paints and paper or a canvas and initiate something beautiful? If you don’t have anything to paint on, you might consider searching for a blank surface. This is how the artist we will talk about today began her journey. Let’s delve into the life and career of Clementine Hunter!

She was born Clementine Reuben at Hidden Hill in January 1887. Hidden Hill plantation in Louisiana was notorious for its cruel treatment of enslaved individuals and domestic workers. It is believed that the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was partially inspired by Hidden Hill.

Her parents were of Creole descent, and her grandparents had once been enslaved. She received minimal formal education throughout her life.

During her youth, her family relocated to the Melrose plantation, also situated in Louisiana. Melrose was a typical plantation, which was later transformed into an artists’ colony by new owners. Hunter started working alongside her parents as sharecroppers. Eventually, she transitioned to housework and eventually became a cook. Most of her life was spent at Melrose.

She began painting in her 50s. Using someone else’s used paints and a window shade, she created her first artwork. In the subsequent years, Hunter utilized various surfaces for her paintings, including gourds, bottles, pieces of wood, and even plastic milk jugs. Of course, she also worked on traditional canvases and papers.

Throughout her career, Clementine Hunter produced thousands of paintings. She pioneered a new form of folk art, using her work to depict the experiences of Black women living on a plantation. Despite being illiterate, Hunter conveyed stories about the individuals who played a role in the functioning of plantations. Her primitive art caught the attention of visitors to Melrose, and she sold her work. Initially, her paintings were sold for less than a dollar each. However, at an auction in the 2000s, one of Hunter’s paintings fetched close to $70,000!

Hunter’s paintings showcased the everyday lives of plantation workers. She also depicted significant events such as baptisms, funerals, and weddings. The majority of her subjects were Black women. The scenes were simple yet filled with joy. In addition to her paintings, Hunter also created quilts and fabric art.

Despite lacking formal artistic training, her work garnered widespread acclaim. In 1953, Look magazine featured Hunter, propelling her art career. President Carter invited her to visit the White House, and her artwork can be found in museums across the United States. Her most renowned works are murals painted on the walls of the African House at the Melrose plantation.

Northwestern State University in Louisiana awarded her an honorary fine arts degree. Numerous articles and books have been written about Hunter and her work. In her honor, an opera was composed by Robert Wilson. She passed away on January 1, 1988, at the age of 101.

So, the next time you feel the urge to create a painting, ask a trusted adult if there are any alternative surfaces you can use besides paper or a canvas!

Try It Out

Clementine Hunter didn’t start painting until she was in her 50s. She painted what she observed and knew, utilizing a variety of materials. Here are some activities to help you explore your creative side!

  • Take a look around your surroundings to see if you can find any art materials. Use your imagination! Make sure to ask an adult for permission to use the materials, and then create some new pieces of art to showcase. For inspiration, check out these examples from notimeforflashcards!
  • Clementine Hunter gained recognition for her murals at African House, which depict the everyday life of the local community. Imagine if you could paint the walls of a building to showcase your own daily life! This could provide a glimpse into history for future generations. Study Hunter’s paintings and write a few paragraphs about what you would paint and what people in the future might understand about you based on your art. Share your writing and ideas with friends and family.
  • Visit your local library or explore online resources, such as the site from Oxford art, to learn more about an artist whose work you admire. Use a chart or Canva template to compare and contrast the chosen artist(s) with Clementine Hunter’s art. Discuss your findings with a trusted adult.

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.britannica.com/dictionary (accessed on February 24, 2023)
  • https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/entertainment_life/clementine-hunters-work-was-more-than-folk-art-it-preserved-stories-of-plantation-life/article_866ee374-a970-11ec-aef8-cb7629e76646.html (accessed on January 25, 2023)
  • http://www.melroseplantation.org/history (accessed on January 25, 2023)
  • https://www.cordella.org/clementine-hunter (accessed on January 25, 2023)


1. Who was Clementine Hunter?

Clementine Hunter was an African-American folk artist who was born in 1886 on a plantation in Louisiana, USA. She worked as a laborer and later as a cook on the Melrose Plantation. It was there that she started painting at the age of 52, using materials like window shades, cardboard, and discarded canvases. Hunter’s paintings depicted scenes of plantation life, including cotton picking, washdays, and baptisms. Her artwork gained recognition and she became one of the most celebrated self-taught artists in the United States.

2. What is Clementine Hunter known for?

Clementine Hunter is known for her unique and vibrant artwork that depicted scenes of daily life on a plantation. Her paintings captured the essence of African-American culture in rural Louisiana. Hunter’s art often showcased activities such as picking cotton, attending church, and working in the fields. Her use of bold colors and simplified forms gave her work a distinctive style. Today, her paintings are highly sought after and can be found in museums and private collections around the world.

3. How did Clementine Hunter’s artwork gain recognition?

Clementine Hunter’s artwork gained recognition through the efforts of Francois Mignon, an artist and owner of the Melrose Plantation. Mignon discovered Hunter’s talent and encouraged her to paint. He provided her with art supplies and even organized her first solo exhibition in 1949. Hunter’s artwork was also noticed by collectors and art enthusiasts who visited the plantation. Over time, her paintings started to gain popularity, and she became a well-known figure in the art world. Today, her artwork is celebrated for its cultural significance and artistic merit.

4. What is the legacy of Clementine Hunter?

The legacy of Clementine Hunter lies in her contribution to the world of folk art. Her artwork provided a unique perspective on African-American life in the early 20th century. Hunter’s paintings captured the struggles, joys, and traditions of her community. Her work serves as a valuable historical record and a testament to the resilience and creativity of African-American artists. Hunter’s legacy also extends to the recognition and appreciation of self-taught artists, who often face barriers in the mainstream art world. Through her art, Hunter continues to inspire and influence future generations of artists.

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