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5 African American Artists Not Named Jean-Michel Basquiat

Clementine Hunter

Clementine would have made a good rapper. She was tough, self taught, and has a cool name.

Ms. Hunter was born late in 1886 or early 1887 on a plantation rumored to be the inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the Cane River region of Louisiana.

Clementine never learned to read or write and spent the majority of her life working on the Melrose Plantation as a field hand, cook, and housekeeper.

According to James Lynwood Wilson’s Clementine Hunter: American Folk Artist, “On the morning before giving birth to one of her children, she picked 78 pounds of cotton, went home and called for the midwife and was back picking cotton a few days later.”

One can see why Hunter rarely bothered with formalities such as titling her artwork.

The folk artist picked up painting late in life, during her fifties, after another artist left brushes and paint behind; Melrose Plantation had evolved into a small artistic epicenter under the guidance of plantation owner Cammie Henry.

Clementine’s art was inspired her surroundings. She never left the 100 mile radius of her home — even ignoring a personal invitation to the White House from Jimmy Carter.

While Clementine lived in poverty for the majority of her life, her paintings were already being sold for thousands of dollars by art dealers at the time of her death in January of 1988.

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