Tidbits® of Fort Wayne, Allen County
OVERCOMING THE ODDS:
The granddaughter of slaves, Clementine Hunter was born in 1886 or 1887. She grew up in a time when she was offered very little education and no access to painting classes or supplies. • Hunter lived almost all of her life on Melrose Plantation, a beautiful cotton and pecan plantation over 200 years old, south of Natchitoches, Louisiana, where she worked as a cook. The plantation is now a National Historic Landmark. • The owner of the plantation in the 1930s, Mrs. Cammie Henry, was a promoter of the arts and encouraged artists to visit her home to write and paint. One of her frequent visitors was painter Alberta Kinsey, from New Orleans. She was there when a dear friend of Mrs. Henry’s, Mrs. Blythe White Rand, came for one of her many visits. Rand was an avid gardener and brought a bouquet of zinnias for her hostess. • On that day, in 1939, Kinsey started an oil painting of the zinnias in an old, hammered copper pitcher. Hunter saw her at work and commented that she might be able to paint. Kinsey stopped her work and gave Hunter the pitcher, flowers and some partially used tubes of oil paint and told her to give it a try. • When Rand returned to Melrose weeks later, Hunter presented her with a painting of the zinnias done on the side of a corrugated cardboard box, the only “canvas” she had. She had used all of the paints, making very thick brush strokes, making the zinnias come alive. This was the first documented “Clementine” painting. It is now owned by an anonymous collector. • Henry, Rand, Kinsey and others associated with Melrose realized the significance of Hunter’s self-taught art.
• Francois Mignon was the resident guardian, caretaker and tour guide at Melrose. He lived at Melrose for many years and was a great friend and mentor. He encouraged and promoted Hunter’s artistic career. • Whitfield Jack, the grandson of Rand, has done much to keep the memory and work of Hunter alive. On the official website, www.clementinehunterartist. com, Jack shares vignettes of Hunter, Mignon, Henry, his grandmother and life at Melrose. He visited his grandparents’ camp, Happy Landing, on Melrose many times and has fond memories of Hunter. • One of Jack’s humorous accounts was when he hid with Hunter as visitors approached her cabin to see her artwork. After the visitors knocked many times, obviously aware that someone was home, Hunter said loudly, “Nobody home!” The people then left. She didn’t like to talk to strangers. • Even though Hunter didn’t particularly like talking to strangers, she did garner some fascinating publicity. A photograph of her in her cabin surrounded by her art appeared in many magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post and Look. Her art has been exhibited all across America, and there have been several books about her. Two books of note include: “Clementine Hunter: The African House Murals” by Art Shiver and Tom Whitehead and “Painting by Heart” by Shelby Gilley. Hunter was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. • In her 50s when she started painting, Hunter created over 5,000 paintings and lived to be 101 years old. She is buried at St. Augustine Church, near Melrose, next to her good friend, Francois Mignon.
4. How many precious stones were parts of the breastplate worn by Old Testament priests? 2, 7, 12, 20 5. From Proverbs 30:33, surely the churning of milk bringeth forth? Food, Blood, Strife, Butter 6. Where did Gideon meet an angel? Prison, Field, Oak tree, Well 1. Is the book of 2 John in the Old or New Testament or neither? 2. In Isaiah 45:1, which “Great” was responsible for overthrowing the Babylonian empire? Alexandria, Cyrus, Xerxes, Tiberius 3. What young man fell from a window and died during a sermon by the apostle Paul? Eutychus, Gamaliel, Sisera, Malachi
ANSWERS: 1) New; 2) Cyrus; 3) Eutychus; 4) 12, 5) Butter, Oak tree Wilson Casey’s new book, “Firsts: Origins of Everyday Things That Changed the World,” is available from Alpha/Penguin publishing. (c) 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.
Read Issue #13 and have some fun with trivia!