National Museum of Women in the Arts
Clementine Hunter
circa January 1887 - January 01 1988
Photograph of Clementine Hunter, unknown date, attributed to Carolyn Ramsey, courtesy of Watson Memorial Library, Cammie G. Henry Research Center (the Mildred Hart Bailey Collection). (c) The Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA, USA
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
KLEH-mehn-(T-EYE-N) HUHN-terr
Minority status:
Active Dates:
circa 1940 - circa 1987
Work Type/Media:
Artistic Role(s):
Folk Artist, Naïve Artist, Oil Painter, Painter, Self-taught Artist, Watercolorist
Abstraction, Naïve Artist
Artist's Biography:
Clementine Hunter is known for her bright, whimsical folk paintings depicting life in the Cane River region of northern Louisiana. During the course of her life, she produced several thousand original paintings which sold for twenty-five cents to thousands of dollars. Her images of cotton picking, fishing, funerals and weddings, flowers, and birds earned international recognition.

Hunter, the daughter of former slaves, had no formal artistic training. She worked on Yucca Plantation, later renamed Melrose Plantation, and 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 work, drawing on whatever surfaces she could find: canvas, wood, gourds, paper, snuff boxes, wine bottles, iron pots, cutting boards, and plastic milk jugs. Paints were difficult to obtain and many of her early works were thinly painted with a limited palette. Hunter sought to record her everyday life, disregarding accurate spatial representation and often placing her subjects on several planes. Her figures, which are usually black, are painted from a profile view and have no facial expression. In the mid-1950s, she painted a series of murals consisting of nine large panels and several small connecting panels on Melrose Plantation also depicting life around Cane River. Hunter experimented with abstraction in her later works including Alice in Wonderland, 1962, and Flower Garden, 1963.

Hunter’s first show was at the New Orleans Arts and Crafts Show in 1949. She had three more shows in the 1950s, but received little attention until the 1970s when she exhibited at the Museum of American Folk Art in New York in 1973 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976. Hunter was included in oral black-history projects at Fisk University in Nashville in 1971 and Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College in 1976. In 1985, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Natchitoches.

Although she became well known throughout the country, Hunter chose to stay in Louisiana, working at Melrose Plantation until 1970 when she moved to a small trailer a few miles away on a unmarked road. This disregard for fame characterized her career and added to the charm of her works.

Other Occupation(s):
Laborer, Servant
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Emanuel Hunter wife of Charlie Dupree friend of Tommy Whitehead
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA, USA (1985)
Earliest exhibition:
New Orleans Arts and Crafts Show, New Orleans, LA, USA (1949)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Artist retrospective(s):
Clementine Hunter: Unique Perspective, Sailor's Valentine Gallery, Nantucket, MA, USA (2001) A Centennial Salute to Clementine Hunter, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA, USA (1985) Clementine Hunter, American Folk Artist: A Retrospective Exhibition, Museum of African American Life and Culture, Dallas, TX, USA (1993)
Related places
Natchitoches (died at)
Untitled, 1981
Call to Church and Flowers