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Catalog Data

Created by:
Clementine Hunter, American, ca. 1886 - 1988  Search this
oil or acrylic paint on canvas board
H x W (unframed): 14 × 11 in. (35.6 × 27.9 cm)
H x W x D (framed): 23 3/8 × 20 3/8 × 2 3/8 in. (59.4 × 51.8 × 6 cm)
Place made:
Natchitoches, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States, North and Central America
ca. 1985
Clementine Hunter’s Black Jesus is part of a tradition of imagery that dates to the early 19th century when Robert Alexander Young, in The Ethiopian Manifesto (1829), referred to the coming of a black messiah. Since then, artists have re-created the black Jesus in paintings, stained-glass windows, Bibles, and more. Hunter was known for her many depictions of Christ’s crucifixion, although this version stands out because it lacks a cross.
Hunter had no formal art training and only began painting in her fifties. She spent most of her life on the Melrose Plantation in Louisiana, picking cotton and collecting pecans. Later she worked inside, cleaning houses and washing clothes. Once she did begin painting, she was quite prolific. It is believed that she produced several thousand works.
This oil painting depicts a human figure with arms extended horizontally. The figure wears a long loose dark red/brown robe that flares outward towards the hem. The figure's head, an oval with two white spots for eyes as the only defined features, has short lines radiating outward from the scalp. There are two small round red spots over the figure's chest. At the ends of each horizontal arm is a larger oblong of paint. Each oblong has a streak of red trickling from the center. At the bottom of the figure are two short triangular brush strokes. Each triangular shape has a red streak running through the middle. To the right of the figure are two short vertical lines crossed by three horizontal short lines. They are done in a dark reddish-brown color. Pencil lines are visible underneath the brush strokes. There is a dark grey blue line of color across the top of the painting, and a green line across the bottom.
African American  Search this
Art  Search this
Christianity  Search this
Religion  Search this
The Black Church  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Henley A. Hunter, Kathey N. Hunter, and Anne Kathryn Hunter
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
© Cane River Art Corporation
Permission required for use. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Visual Arts
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture