Artist's Fact Sheet

Clementine Hunter

No one is quite sure of the date, but it is believed that Clementine Hunter (pronounced "Clementeen") was born in December 1886 or January 1887 on a Natchitoches plantation called Hidden Hill. She died January 1, 1988 near Melrose Plantation where she had spent all but the first 15 years of her life. Clementine Hunter didn't begin painting until her mid-50s. Her husband, Emanuel, didn't encourage her. She had to work on the plantation. She gave birth to seven children, but only five lived. She worked on the plantation as a field hand and later as a domestic (housekeeper).

Clementine was a Creole, which means a mixture of five races: Austrian, French, Irish, Indian and African-American. She spoke a Creole dialect for many years until she married her second husband, Emanuel, who taught her English.

Favorite subjects included cotton picking (she actually enjoyed picking cotton, she said), wash day, pecan gathering, Saturday nights, church scenes and her favorite flowers, zinnias. Clementine Hunter painted what she knew and loved. Her works are simple. The style is known as naive or folk. "Naive" means innocent and inexperienced; "folk" meaning the way everyday people would paint.

She was illiterate so she couldn't sign her name to her paintings. She began to initial them by copying the initials of Cammy Henry, the owner of the plantation, but she worried that it would cause confusion, so she made a backwards C. Over the years the backward C worked its way across the H, until Hunter's identifying mark became uniquely her own.