Posted by Doyle Bailey for The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Clementine Hunter  (pronounced Clementeen)

Possibly Louisiana’s most famous artist, Clementine Hunter, was born in 1886 at Hidden Hill Plantation. At the age of fifteen, Clementine and her father moved to the financially successful Melrose Plantation. Melrose had been acquired in 1898 by John and Carmelite (“Miss Cammie”) Henry. Miss Cammie turned Melrose into an artist colony that was a haven where artists and writers came to live and work. Clementine worked in the cotton fields and the pecan orchards.  When she was middle-aged, Miss Cammie brought Clementine into the Big House to cook and clean. Here she met a New Orleans artist, Alberta Kinsey, who inspired Clementine to paint. With no formal training, she produced colorful and from memory paintings. She depicted every day life on Melrose Plantation. In 1939, Francois Mignon arrived at Melrose.  Mignon  began a life-long encouragement and promotion of Clementine Hunter. Today the story of the servant girl who became a famous artist is known around the world.

Clementines’ paintings are:

  • recognized as a narrative of plantation life during the time before grueling labor in the fields was replaced by mechanization. 
  • considered the works of one the most important self-taught American artists of the 20th century.
  • shown at the Smithsonian Institution, The Museum of American Folk Art and countless other museums and private collections around the world.

Clementine Hunter died on January 1, 1988 at the age of 101


Recognitions:

  • She was the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Delgado Museum (now the New Orleans Museum of Art)  achieved a significant amount of success during her lifetime, including 
  • an invitation to the White House from U.S. President Jimmy Carter (which she declined).
  • Radcliffe College included Hunter in its “Black Women Oral History Project, published in 1980.
  • Northwestern State University of Louisiana granted her an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1986.
One of the more well-known displays of Hunter’s artwork is located in a storage building called “African House” on the grounds of Melrose Plantation. (African House is often referred to as slave quarters, however the building was built for, and always used for storage.) The walls are covered in a mural Hunter painted.
Visit Melrose Plantation and see examples of Clementine’s art, including the murals in the African House.

Clementine Hunter, lived and painted at Melrose

Melrose Plantation Big House

Please take note of change in Melrose Festival dates for 2012.

Sat. April 21 and Sun. April 22, 2012.

Melrose Arts and Crafts Festival Vendor Information. 

Begun in 1941 and chartered as a non-profit organization in 1944, the APHN is a volunteer organization. At present, APHN operates two historic properties: Melrose Plantation and the Lemee House. The organization provides educational opportunities to children and adults through the Children’s Walking Tour of Natchitoches, the Fall Tour of Historic Homes and daily 12pm-4pm (closed on Mondays)  guided tours of Melrose Plantation, which includes the Big House, Yucca House and the African House. 

     Customer Service Information:
                                       email: info@aphnatchitoches.net
Phone: 318-379-0055

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