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Clementine Hunter

Her Life and Art

260 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 67 color illustrations, 44 halftones, 1 map

ebook available

Art History | Biography | African-American History

  Hardcover / 9780807148785 / September 2012

Clementine Hunter (1887–1988) painted every day from the 1930s until several days before her death at age 101. As a cook and domestic servant at Louisiana’s Melrose Plantation, she painted on hundreds of objects available around her—glass snuff bottles, discarded roofing shingles, ironing boards—as well as on canvas. She produced between five and ten thousand paintings, including her most ambitious work, the African House Murals. Her paintings of cotton planting and harvesting, washdays, weddings, baptisms, funerals, Saturday night revelry, and zinnias depict her experiences of everyday plantation life along the Cane River. More than a personal record of Hunter’s life, her work also reflects the social, material, and cultural aspects of the area’s larger African American community. 

Drawing on archival research, interviews, personal files, and a close relationship with the artist, Art Shiver and Tom Whitehead offer the first comprehensive biography of this self-taught regional painter, who attracted the attention of the world. Shiver and Whitehead trace Hunter’s childhood, her encounters at Melrose with artists and writers, such as Alberta Kinsey and Lyle Saxon, and the role played by eccentric plantation historian François Mignon, who encouraged and promoted her art. The authors include rare paintings and photographs to illustrate Hunter’s creative process and discuss the evolution of her style. 
This book also highlights Hunter’s impact on the modern art world and provides insight into a decades-long forgery operation that Tom Whitehead helped uncover. This recent attention reinforced the uniqueness of Hunter’s art and confirmed her place in the international art community, which continues to be inspired by the life and work of Clementine Hunter.
Art Shiver was introduced to Clementine Hunter by Tom Whitehead in the early 1970s. Following a career in television broadcast news and station management, he continues to write on subjects ranging from poetry to technology.

Tom Whitehead was a personal friend of Clementine Hunter and has written and spoken widely on the artist. He and Art Shiver coedited Clementine Hunter: The African House Murals. A professor emeritus of journalism at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, he now serves that university's president as a consultant on special projects.

Reviews of Clementine Hunter

“Providing as clear as possible an account of the artist's life, and examining the various individuals that influenced her life and art is the strength of this book, which will be of interest not only to those fond of the art of Clementine Hunter, but also to those interested in the history and culture of Louisiana and some of its intriguing personalities.”—Arkansas Review


Advance Praise for Clementine Hunter

“This is a clear-eyed account of Clementine Hunter’s extraordinary journey from plantation cotton picker to nationally recognized folk painter and muralist. Shiver and Whitehead have tirelessly researched their subject and peeled away the thick web of legends and fictions that have spun around the artist in the past. They tell us many new things about the people who helped Hunter along the way and some of them make up a rogue’s gallery: zealous do-gooders, clever imposters, and outright forgers. Good illustrations and a full bibliography top off this marvelous study.”—Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita of Art History at Stanford and author of Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories

“I consider myself indeed fortunate to have met Clementine Hunter as she sat at her easel painting on the grounds of the plantation where she had been born, grew up, and raised her children. Artists are indeed born and Clementine Hunter had a God-given gift to be able to translate the world around her onto canvas or planks. She gave a glimpse of her world to all of us and to generations to come. This book helps ensure her work and story of life reaches far into the future.”—Yvonne Brathwaite Burke

“For Clementine Hunter’s legions of admirers, this book is cause for celebration. For those who require an introduction to her life and work, it’s an invitation to discover a great American artist who somehow left the fields and the kitchen of the plantation where she worked and landed in the world’s best museums. Shiver and Whitehead share decades of research in building a portrait of a lady whose beautiful pictures will live on forever as a testament to her beautiful life.”—John Ed Bradley, author of Restoration and My Juliet

Clementine Hunter links

Article: Life of Louisiana painter Clementine Hunter subject of opera (

Article: Tom Whitehead: Clementine Hunter Biographer (Country Roads Magazine)

Audio: Biography gives fresh insight into artist Clementine Hunter (Red River Radio)

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