NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana museum is showing more than 50 works by one of America’s most important self-taught artists, Clementine Hunter. The exhibit includes some rarely seen abstract paintings and a forgery by a man whose cats helped bring him down.
The exhibition at the Cabildo in New Orleans will continue into next year. It also includes a quilt cover by Hunter, found objects that she painted, and one of many forgeries by a Baton Rouge man who pleaded guilty in 2011 to faking works sold as Hunter’s.
“Although her work has received international acclaim, this exhibition helps us appreciate Clementine Hunter from a uniquely Louisiana perspective,” Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said in a news release.
On April 22, Tom Whitehead and FBI agent Randolph Deaton will give a free Zoom talk about how they identified William Toye of Baton Rouge as the forger. According to material provided by the museum, Toye and his wife, Beryl, owned more than a hundred cats between 1977 and 2009, and cat hair stuck in the oil paint on many of the fakes.
Whitehead and Art Shiver, co-authors of “Clementine Hunter: Her Life and Art,” will discuss Hunter’s life and career in the Cane River region sometime in the fall.
Hunter’s parents were field workers on a plantation near Cloutierville, and her grandparents included an enslaved woman. Hunter was about 13 when her family moved to nearby Melrose Plantation; she lived on or near there for the rest of her life, dying at age 101.
She was about 50 when she started painting.
The abstracts were painted in the early 1960s, according to the museum.
James Pipes Register, a friend, mentor and collector, reportedly gave her montages made from bits cut from newspapers and magazines, asking her to paint what she saw.
“Though Hunter usually rejected attempts to influence her style or subject, she went along with his request between 1962 and 1964,” according to the museum’s caption for one such work.
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