Untitled by Clementine Hunter - 1981 - 14 x 18 in National Museum of Women in the Arts Untitled by Clementine Hunter - 1981 - 14 x 18 in National Museum of Women in the Arts


Oil and collage on canvasboard • 14 x 18 in
  • Clementine Hunter - late December 1886 or early January 1887 - January 1, 1988 Clementine Hunter 1981

Clementine Hunter was a self-taught African-American artist from rural Louisiana. She spent her entire life living and working on plantations, which are key themes in her paintings. For most of her life, she worked on Melrose Plantation, first as a farm hand and later as a cook. The owner of Melrose Plantation, Cammie Henry, turned it into a residence for all sorts of artists, which led Clementine Hunter to begin painting around middle age.

Once she started, she pretty much never stopped. She made thousands of paintings in her long life, despite the fact that she worked full-time at the plantation and had to rely on leftover paints given to her by artists. Lacking a steady supply of canvases, she painted on whatever she could salvage, including old bottles and pieces of pottery. Thanks to her discovery by a well-connected champion, she eventually had her work exhibited in important museums and galleries and became a well-known artist.

Unlike many of her most iconic works, this painting isn’t a scene of plantation life. It does have a lot of elements that she’s known for, however, such as bright colors, simple shapes, and flowers. She also followed her habit of making the most interesting or important elements the largest. In this case, it’s the girl, who is almost as tall as the tree. What’s unusual here is the fact that she included a cut-out picture of herself and painted a scene around it. The photograph came from a catalog from one of her exhibitions.

- Alexandra Kiely

PS. We can present you this painting thanks to the National Museum of Women in Arts - they do magnificent work and have great collection, check them out!

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Evelyn M. Shambaugh © Clementine Hunter