Clementine Hunter has been called a primitive artist, a folk artist, a naive painter, and a memory painter. Her bold, exuberant style defies all conventions of traditional art forms. As one critic stated, primitive art reveals a "flash of the spirit." And that spirit for Clementine was the art of living cultivated by blacks in the Old South. She learned to make the most of life and to celebrate it in her own way.
At her death in early 1988, Clementine was 101 years old. Born in 1887 at the Hidden Hill Plantation on the Cane River-Lake near Cloutierville, Louisiana, she was in her fifties before she picked up a couple of bent tubes of paint and rendered her first painting . . . on a window shade.
The subjects of Clementine’s paintings came from her daily life on Louisiana’s Melrose Plantation in the Cane River country. When asked the title of a painting, Clementine would say, "That''s pickin’ cotton." Her descriptions of her paintings became an oral history of singular events of plantation life. Baptisms, funerals, washdays, and the harvesting of sugar cane are just a few of those events documented in her paintings.
François Mignon, a close friend and curator/librarian at Melrose, wrote a number of letters to James Register, an art collector and dealer who specialized in Clementine’s works. Excerpts from those letters chronicle her growth and development as a major contemporary artist. Some 100 color photographs of her work, a summary of critical commentaries, a detailed biography, and an appendix of permanent exhibits complete this exquisite volume.
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