Clementine Hunter and Melrose
The Ann Brittain Family Collection in collaboration with the Brittain Family
Clementine Hunter's popularity precedes the contemporary interest in self- taught artists by three decades. The simplicity and directness with which her colorful work addresses the themes of religion, rural life and many of life's important events, has earned her a lasting following and unique place within the art of region.
Clementine's family moved to Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches Parish at the turn of the century. There she worked in the fields, the house and eventually as the chief cook. It was her role as the cook that brought her into contact with many artists and writers that came to the artists retreat at Melrose. In her fifties, Clementine decided that she would "mark" a painting and began painting in her leisure time. Encouraged by Francois Mignon, who came to the artist retreat and James Register, Clementine blossomed into the revered artist and was celebrated by a Julius Rosenwald Foundation Grant in 1944, and in 1955 exhibitions at the Delgado Museum (New Orleans Museum of Art) and Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, where she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.
These works are on loan from the family of Ann Brittain, who died on November 23, 2003. Ann Brittain first met Clementine at age six while visiting Melrose with her mother. This along with her mother's friendship with Melrose owner Cammie Henry, led to a lifetime of friendship between Ann Brittain and Clementine Hunter. These works are in their original frames reflecting the quality of a private collection assembled over time.
The works in this exhibition of the Brittain Family Collection span Clementine's activities as an artist. Hung chronologically and running clockwise around the gallery, we see her style unfold from white ground and free brushstrokes of her early work to the well known darker grounds and simplified forms. Clementine's work can be traced through the evolution of her signatures, which went through five distinct stages represented here on the wall above her work. Clementine continued to paint as she approached the age of one-hundred, returning to her early style of a white ground with expressive strokes.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art would like to thank the generosity of Jack and Ann Brittain and family and the assistance of Tom Whitehead in making this exhibition possible.