Untitled by Clementine Hunter

Painted in 1974 or after.

Entirely self-taught and immensely prolific, Clementine Hunter earned critical acclaim for thousands of vibrant paintings.

Hunter, who labored her entire life on plantations in central Louisiana, began painting only in her late 50s. Most of her paintings chronicle her memories and experience of plantation life: harvests, baptisms, funerals, and the like.

This untitled painting, however, functions as a self portrait. Incorporating the front panel of a 1974 exhibition brochure in the composition, Hunter simultaneously documented her photographic likeness and her public success as an artist. Even the painted figure to the left, which bears flowers, seems to allude to the respect Hunter had earned as a result of her talent.

“If Jimmy Carter wants to see me, he knows where I am. He can come here.” This reply to President Jimmy Carter’s invitation that she come to Washington for the opening of an exhibition of her work is vintage Clementine Hunter. Her disregard for fame and the famous was part of her special charm and did not change, even after she became known worldwide for her colorful folk paintings of Black life in the Cane River region of northern Louisiana.

...Ms. Hunter did her first painting in 1939. From then until a few months before her death, she painted continually, on any surface she could find. Her output was prodigious; estimates are that she completed more than 5000 paintings. Like many folk artists, however, Ms. Hunter painted the same scenes over and over. Her works roughly fall into five thematic categories: work scenes from plantation life; recreation scenes; religious scenes; flowers and birds; and abstracts. The quality of her work varies greatly, but her paintings are prized for their vibrant colors and whimsical humor.

...Although the quality of Ms. Hunter’s paintings may be uneven, the historical value of her work is beyond question. Her artworks now command prices that range between a few thousand dollars to over $20,000 a painting.

Ms. Hunter died in Louisiana at the age of 101.

...Her paintings were first exhibited in public at Northwestern State University of Louisiana but she was not allowed to visit during the gallery’s open hours. She had to view her own art when the exhibit was closed to the public. She was awarded an honorary degree from this institution some years later and demonstrated considerable grace, even magnanimity, in accepting it. The year was 1986, two years before she died.

Hunter continued to paint up until a few days before when, in 1988, on the first day of the year, she died.
Click to select the cover image for this artwork.
Imported from: nmwa.org