Although no one is sure of the exact date,
Clementine Hunter was born in the winter of 1887 on Hidden
Hill Plantation in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana near Melrose
Plantation where she began her career as a painter and was
to work for almost 75 years.
Her signature style of simple, naïve paintings depict
daily plantation life – picking cotton, Saturday night
parties, religious scenes, and her zinnias.
The three pieces shown here are from
the personal collection of Dr. Robert Ryan, Professor Emeritus
of Tulane Medical School and published expert on the works
of Clementine Hunter. They are among a total of 41 such pieces
which she painted over several years beginning in 1981 and
according to Dr. Ryan this is their story: During his monthly
visits to the hospitals in Alexandria and Pineville, Dr. Ryan
went to visit Clementine. It happened that on one such occasion,
she had just finished painting around a photo that she had
pasted onto a piece of art board. After a rather lengthy discussion,
Clementine agreed to sell the piece to Dr. Ryan. Thinking
about the piece on his drive back to New Orleans, he decided
to glue various photos of Clementine to art board and have
her paint around them. On his next trip to visit her, he took
two or three such pieces and asked her if she would paint
around the photos. Reluctantly agreeing to do so she had him
hide the pieces on the top shelf of the closet in the room
where she painted. She said that if anyone else saw the pieces
she would be buried with requests to do more and she was only
doing this as a favor to him. For the next several months
Dr. Ryan would bring two or three photos to her with the photos
glued to the canvas. On each occasion, she would have him
hide them on the top shelf of the closet and take down the
two or three she had done since his last visit. Overall, a
total of 41 such pieces were done over the next several years.
The photos show Clementine working in the fields, painting,
etc. over probably a 50 year period. Two of the series have
been donated to the National Museum for Women in the Arts
in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Ryan's article in the Fall 1998 edition
of "Raw Vision", Clementine Hunter, Robert
F. Ryan MD Shares His Reminiscences of a Unique Folk Artist,
is beautifully illustrated with her works and offers a rare
personal glimpse into the life of this legendary folk artist.
following works are shown only to illustrate Clementine's
work and for your enjoyment. They are not available for sale.
on any image below to enlarge: