Natchitoches celebrates world-renowned primitive artist, Clementine Hunter

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MELROSE, La. (KSLA) - The City of Natchitoches is honoring world-famous artist Clementine Hunter.

Tucked away on a plantation close to Natchitoches, houses the artwork of arguably one of Louisiana’s most famous artists: Clementine Hunter, her work known around the world. | Image Credit: KSLA

Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey’s proclamation of March 24 as Clementine Hunter Day credits the self-taught primitive artist with painting thousands of images showing life on a 20th-century plantation.

Located 15 miles south of Natchitoches is Melrose Plantation, Hunter’s home until her death in 1988.

A museum is set up in the house where she lived and painted her works of art.

“At age 16, she moved to the Melrose Plantation as a sharecropper and cook,” historian Betty Metoyer-Rock says. “Hunter started painting in her 50s.”

Melrose Plantation was a hub for writers and artists in the area.

Hunter painted her first piece of art with a twisted tube of paint she had grabbed from the garbage.

“Anything that was discarded, she started painting on whether it was a dishpan, window shades, bottles or anything she could find,” Rock says.

“A writer named Francois Mignon noticed her talent and encouraged her to paint.”

Hunter developed a friendship with Mignon and began to teach herself how to paint. She became popular throughout Natchitoches Parish, leading people to stop by her home to see her art.

So many people came to her home that she had to move a few times and began charging people 50 cents to view her pieces.

Hunter died in 1988 at the age of 101. She left her legacy through her seven children and one of her grandsons who is now following in her footsteps as a painter.

During her life, Hunter was recognized for her artwork by President Ronald Reagan, Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, and other politicians.

Among the many awards, she earned was an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

The award-winning documentary, “Clementine Hunter’s World,” was screened Sunday afternoon at the Oprah Winfrey Theater.

The venue is at the National Museum of African American History & Culture at The Smithsonian in Washington D.C., which also is showcasing the exhibition "Clementine Hunter: Life on Melrose Plantation.”

Melrose Plantation offers tours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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