Biography of Clementine Hunter. Clementine Hunter biography.
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Clementine Hunter
An extraordinary life

From her humble beginning c.1886-1887 as the illiterate child of former slaves on a cotton plantation in Louisiana, Clementine Hunter rose to heights almost unimaginable for a person of her status and race at that time. At one of the early exhibitions of her work it is reported that she was not even permitted to enter the gallery until after closing time because of the color of her skin. But that was destined to change.

By the end of her life, over a century later, her biography had appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica; her photograph and artwork had been reproduced in dozens of magazines, including Look, Ebony, Holiday, and The Saturday Evening Post; she had been the subject of countless articles and of several scholarly books; her paintings had been shown in exhibitions all across America (one of which was in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.) and had been sold for thousands of dollars by the world-renowned auction house, Sotheby's, in New York; her works had become part of important private collections and were in the permanent collections of many prominent museums, among them the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of American Folk Art in New York. She had been the recipient of several substantial artistic grants; had been invited to Washington D.C. by the President of the United States to open an exhibition of her paintings; had seen her work featured on the United Nations UNICEF calendar; and had been awarded an honorary degree of Doctorate of Fine Arts. A search of the internet will produce hundreds of pages about Clementine Hunter and her art. The list of accolades and sources of information is almost limitless.

Click to see original Look and Saturday Evening Post articles

Clementine Hunter is estimated to have created as many as five thousand pieces during her lifetime. When she began painting in her fifties, her works were either given away or sold for ten to twenty-five cents each. Today her early paintings can bring tens of thousands of dollars and are becoming increasingly scarce. The most remarkable thing about Hunter's paintings and their success is that they are not works of technical virtuosity. They are for the most part very simple and childlike, which has made them sometimes the object of derision: "My kid could have painted that," commented one viewer on seeing a Clementine painting of plantation life.

But those who know and appreciate her work understand its primitive beauty, its uniqueness, its charm, its character, and its singular place in the chronicles of American Art. A painting by Clementine Hunter -- whether it is a group of workers picking cotton, a bouquet of zinnias, or an abstraction-- is as easy to recognize as being a "Clementine" as a Picasso is a Picasso.

No biography of Clementine Hunter, even a short sketch such as this, is complete without mention of her great friend and mentor, Francois Mignon, who lived at Melrose and who guided and encouraged and promoted her throughout her long and remarkable career.

Clementine Francois

Together, they made history. And, as they lie at rest in the cemetery of St. Augustine Church, located beside Cane River and the vast fields of Melrose, Clementine and Francois are, fittingly, together still.

Permission to use the above listing by kind courtesy of
Click to see St. Augustine Cemetery

 For information in depth, any serious student or collector of Clementine Hunter's works should read the following books: 


(Published 2005)
"Clementine Hunter : The African House Murals"
Edited by Art Shiver and Tom Whitehead
Order from Melrose Plantation

"Painting by Heart -
The Life and Art of Clementine
Hunter" by Shelby R. Gilley
Order from Gilley's Gallery
"Clementine Hunter -
American Folk Artist"
by James L. Wilson
Order from

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