.Exciting news for a serious collector of Clementine Hunter's paintings:.

Read on and discover the many reasons why this painting is so unique:

#1. Serendipity was in the cards. When the Rand family of Alexandria, Louisiana, long-time friends of Cammie Henry, owner of Melrosse Plantation, leased a site on Cane River to build a fishing camp, they choose the location for one simple reason: It was the most accessible.

That location was just after crossing a rickety wooden bridge over the river and entered Melrose Plantation property. A sharp turn to the left off the main road led to the camp named "Happy Landing". It was on the river bank only 50 yards away right next to a cotton field.

Serendipity (or was it destiny?) delt a winning hand, because in a nearby dwelling lived a person who would forever change the lives of the Rand family and the lives of many others.

#2. That person was Clementine Hunter, and through her generosity
"Canasta Players" has the ultimate ironclad provenance: It was hand-delivered by Clementine to Blythe White Rand while Mrs. Rand was at her family fishing camp, Happy Landing, on Melrose Plantation. Clementine's cabin was located just a ten-minute walk across the neighboring cotton field.

#3. To add to the rarity of this painting, it is exceptional in that the players, all painted black in Hunter's usual style, are actually representations of three white ladies that Clementine knew in the main house on Melrose Plantation. Their names are known, and they were among the major players in Clementine Hunter's life.

When Clementine handed Blythe Rand the painting, she told her that it was a painting of her and Miss Cammie and Miss Caroline playing canasta. And the name stuck: Canasta Players.

This kind of personal information is known to only a handfull of owners of Clementine Hunter's works and is an important fact that makes Canasta Players a collector's item.

#5. As a special bonus: There's a wonderful story behind Canasta Players from the time Clementine did her first oil painting Bowl of Zinnias, until now, when Canasta Players may well become the prized possession of a fortunate new owner.

#6. Authentication: Most important of all, the painting is authenticated in writing by the acknowledged pre-eminent authority on the works of Clementine Hunter: Mr. Thomas N. Whitehead of Nachitoches, Louisiana.

 Click to See

In addition to Canasta Players, Mrs. Rand's extraordinary collection included
Clementine Hunter's documented first oil painting, Bowl of Zinnias,
previously owned by Whitfield Jack and sold to a prominent collector.
The collection also included the seven paintings now in the permanent collection of the
Smithsonian National Museum of African Americn History and Culture

Canasta Players
is truly a member of a Royal Family!

The Smithsonian National Museum of
African American History and Culture

CLICK to see the seven Clementine Hunter paintings
in the permanent collection of the

These paintings were donated to the Museum by Mrs. Rand's grandson,
Rand Jack, and his wife, Dana Crowley Jack.

Click image to enlarge

Here's the story of how it all came to pass ...

...Whitfield Jack Jr.'s grandmother, Blythe White Rand (left) of Alexandria, Louisiana, shown with Cammie Henry, owner of Melrose Plantation., about
an hour's drive from Blythe Rand.s home.

The two women had a friendship for many years starting in the mid 1930's.
Both were expert weavers and shared a passionate love of gardening.
.They wove rugs on large commercial looms which, with each change as the vertical threads were interwoven with the horizontal threads, made a thumping sound like someone pounding a two-by-four on a wooden floor.

ÇTogether they paddled a flat-bottomed boat through the local swamps and bogs in search of the rare Louisiana wild iris that graced the Melrose gardens. Eventually, as the collection grew, it became the finest in the entire state.

They were a couple of brave adventurers, because the swamps were infrested with alligators, water moccasins, and huge hornet's nests.

1939 (created image)
Click image to enlarge

The drive from Alexandria to Melrose was was fine until you turned off the blacktop highway and headed down a dirt road. It was a river of dust from the cotton fields when the weather was dry and a river of mud after a few days of rain.

And if you stopped too long on the blacktop highway at the turn-off to Melrose, the tires on your car would sink into the tar.

Today, the cotton fields have been replaced by groves of pecan trees, a more profitable crop.


Camp Happy Landing on Cane River
Click to see in color
  Camp Happy Landing still stands on the banks of Cane River on Melrose Plantation, Melrose, Louisiana. The camp was built in the late 1930s and was made of natural, unpainted wood, later stained a soft cedar-red. This photograph was taken in 2006.  

Clementine Hunter's Cabin

Click images to enlarge

A re-creation of how it used to be

The photographs of Clementine and me are added just to give you an idea what it was like in the very early days when I went to visit Clementine.

Clementine Hunter image courtesy of
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


ÇFrom Alexandria, Louisiana, where I was born December 23, 1936, it was about an hours's drive to Melrose Plantation where Clementine Hunter lived most of her life. From the time I was around eight years old, my grandmother began taking me to Melrose when she went to visit Cammie Henry, sometimes staying one day, sometimes staying a whole week.

ÇOn those visits, which continued on through my early college years, I always went to Clementine Hunter's cabin and watched her paint. I was politely silent, and we became friends, and several times she painted a picture of me, black and looking like everybody else. Clementine did paint white people (some people throught she didn't), she just painted them black.

I was delighted, because Clementine would only paint a picture of you, or add you to a picture, if she liked you.

She loved children. Not so much adults. The only time I went inside Clementine's cabin was when a carload of obnoxious tourists approached, blowing the horn loudly and shouting that they were coming to buy paintings. Clementine snatched me inside and slammed the door. When the driver started pounding on the door, Clementine said, in a gruff voice, "Nobody home". And when the driver's wife started shouting, "We know you are in there!", Clementine replied, louder and even gruffier, "NOBODY HOME! The invaders left empty-handed.

Clementine Hunter's cabin was just one long room from front to back, a classic worker's cabin known as a "shotgun" house, because you could shoot a shotgun from the front door right out of the back door.

  Melrose Plantation - "The"Big House"


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