A world-renowned Folk Artist, Clementine Hunter, lived and worked most of her life on the Melrose Plantation in Melrose, LA, near Natchitoches. It was formerly known as Yucca Plantation, one of the largest plantations in the U.S. was owned and built by and for free blacks Louis Metoyer.  The Metoyers were free people of color for four generations before the Civil War.

Hunter began her painting career at age 55. She completed her first piece of artwork in 1940. Because they were both Folk Artists who started painting late in life around the same period, Hunter's art was compared to paintings by Grandma Moses. However, there were no other comparisons between the two as Moses painted mostly winter scenes of rural New York and Hunter highlighted the day in life of African Americans living in the segregated South. Incredibly her first painting was rendered on a window shade and depicted a baptism in the Cane River.

Hunter is believed to have been born around 1886/1887 to a Creole family on Hidden Hill Plantation and was one of seven children. Her mother and father were free people of color and they would move to Melrose to work for the Henry family as sharecroppers. Clementine started working at age 12 as a fieldhand and later became a cook.

By the time Clementine began painting, she was a grandmother. She would draw and paint after work in the evening and canvas would be whatever was available at the time, plastic milk jugs, wood, glass bottles, and yes even discarded window shades. Unique about Clementine's paintings was the people didn't have much expression. In 1949, she held her first art exhibition in Africa House, one of the buildings at Melrose.

She wouldn't get public recognition until the 70s when her art was put on display at the Museum of American Folk Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Clementine Hunter painted right up until she died in 1988 at the age of 101. Below learn more about this Folk Art trailblazer from Louisiana.

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