Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Weekly MUSE: Clementine Hunter

Clementine Hunter
February is Black History Month, and before this month is over, I want to share one of my favorite African American artists with you!

Clementine Hunter!

Looks like we have found another MUSE! And I hope you are inspired!

Clementine (pronounced Clemen-teen) Hunter was born in the Cane River region of Louisiana in either 1886 or 1887. She was the granddaughter of a slave.

Around the age of fifteen, Clementine moved to Melrose Plantation. For many years, she worked there as a cotton picker, cook and housekeeper. She gave birth to seven children.

Melrose Plantation
Photo by: Matt Howry
In later years, Melrose Plantation became a hotspot for visiting artists, mostly writers and painters. It wasn’t until Clementine was in her fifties that she tried her hand at painting.

One of the Melrose artists had left behind some tubes of paint. Clementine took these tubes and started painting on anything she could find: pieces of wood, gourds, plastic milk jugs and a variety of other things.

Her art attracted the attention of the other artists and the plantation owner. They liked Clementine’s work because of her bold color choices. She also painted scenes of what life was like on a plantation.

Some of her most prized paintings are of African American weddings, funerals, births, baptisms and hard work. She also loved to paint flowers, especially zinnias.

Take a look at this slideshow to see some photos of Clementine Hunter and her paintings.

Eventually, Clementine’s art became very popular among art dealers. While art dealers were selling Clementine’s painting for top dollar, Clementine would either give her paintings away or sell them for next to nothing.

Clementine’s work was shown in many galleries, and in 1955 she was the first African American to be given her own display at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

What I love about Clementine’s art is that she painted from her heart. She taught herself how to paint, and her goal wasn’t to impress anybody. She just wanted to share her memories and inspiration the best way she could.

Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the USA
She even turned down an invitation to the White House by President Jimmy Carter

Clementine Hunter died in 1988. She was either 101 or 102 years old. And she painted all the way to the end of her life.

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these WHAT IF questions will help you get started.

WHAT IF your main character was a boy or girl who lived at Melrose Plantation while Clementine Hunter was painting?

WHAT IF your main character found out that his/her grandmother was a famous artist?

WHAT IF Clementine Hunter was still alive and your main character got the chance to interview her?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a cup of hot COCOA, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,

Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “plantation”. Here is the definition: a usually large farm or estate, especially in a tropical or semitropical country, on which cotton, tobacco, coffee, sugar cane, or the like is cultivated, usually by resident laborers.


  1. What if Clementine Hunter made a pop up book?
    What if Clementine Hunter painted the most beautiful flower?
    What if Clementine Hunter wasn't a painter?

  2. • What if Clementine Hunter was still alive and stayed in Seattle – I could take art classes from her
    • What if Clementine Hunter started painting earlier in her life – she could have done many more paintings
    • What if Clementine Hunter was born before slavery was abolished
    • What if Clementine Hunter charged a lot of money for her paintings, like the art dealers did, instead of giving them away or selling them very cheap
    • What if Clementine Hunter didn’t work at a plantation but at a factory or an office
    • What if Clementine Hunter was a musician instead of an artist
    • What if Clementine Hunter was related to Harriet Tubman (I’m doing my book report on her)

    - Amar