George Hunt was born more than 60 years ago of humble beginnings, and over a lifetime of living, learning, watching, growing, creating and translating his visions into paintings, he has emerged as one of the most important African-American artist in the South. George Hunt has made a significant mark on not just African-American art, but American art as a whole.
Memphis artist George Hunt was born in rural Louisiana, near Lake Charles, and his grandmother noted early in life that he had a special power to “see things.” In addition to large doses of indigenous music, one of the things he saw was the civil rights movement and that experience became a painting in 1997, which in turn, became a US Postage Stamp issued in 2005 as part of the United States Postal Service series, “To Form A More Perfect Nation.”
George Hunt was honored for his painting, “America Cares/Little Rock Nine” at ceremonies in Little Rock and Memphis. The paint was originally commissioned for the Central High School Museum, but first spent five years hanging in the White House in Washington, D.C. First Lady, Hillary Clinton, in a personal note to Mr. Hunt, wrote, “we are grateful that our visitors and staff have such a powerful image of hope and freedom to greet, inspire and inform them.”
In 2002, the U.S. Congress brought attention to America’s indigenous music by officially declaring 2003 as the “Year of the Blues.” George Hunt was named the Official Artist for the “Year of the Blues,” and he created a new body of work for a national tour. The exhibit, ‘Conjurating the Blues, The High Cotton Tour,” consisted of 26 large paintings that depicted the history of blues music in America. The title painting proudly hung in the grand lobby of Radio City Music Hall in New York during the opening tribute show for the Year of the Blues as Martin Scorcese filmed the documentary movie, “Lightnin’ in a Bottle.” The exhibit continued on to Seattle at Experience Music Project, Chicago, Memphis, Helena, AR (King Biscuit Festival) and Clarksdale, MS (Delta Blues Museum.)
George Hunt appeared at great length in many segments of the 13-part “Year of the Blues” PBS radio series telling vivid stories of his experience with blues music, rooted deep in the rural south. Later in 2003, the Blues Foundation bestowed a coveted “Keeping the Blues Alive” award on George.
George Hunt spent his childhood in Texas and Hot Springs, Arkansas. After high school, Hunt attended college at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff on a football scholarship and studied art as a career. He did postgraduate studies at the University of Memphis and at New York University. Mr. Hunt spent three decades teaching art education and coaching at George Washington Carver High School in Memphis before dedicating full time to painting. He now works in a studio overlooking world-famous Beale Street.
Ninety-nine percent of what George Hunt paints come from the Southern African-American experience, especially the folk tradition, civil rights movement, the mythic heroism of Black manhood, and of course blues music and culture. His mother-in-law owned a jukejoint in Helena, Arkansas called the Dreamland Cafe. There, George Hunt listened to blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson and watched the patrons dance, drink, eat catfish, court, sport and score. The visions for George Hunt's art have been steeped in the music and life passages of blues people.
In 1996 George Hunt was commissioned to paint 24 portraits for Blues & Legends Hall of Fame Museum in Robinsonville, Mississippi. He also created the original painting for the large mural on the exterior wall. Hunt was selected because his deeply rooted history in blues combined with his bold, dramatic, artistic style to produce images that capture both the uniqueness of the individual and the essence of this colorful music. It was both an honor and a dream come true for George when he the completed the museum’s paintings in 1998.
Hunt was selected as the featured artist for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum’s American Music Master’s annual conference in 1998. The conference, Hellhound on My Trail: Robert Johnson and the Blues, utilized a George Hunt painting for the poster; and included a one-man show at the 9th Street Gallery in Cleveland. A year later he was selected again to create a painting of Muddy Waters for the Museum.
George Hunt’s name and images have become synonymous with The Memphis In May Beale Street Music Festival. For 15 years, he has been selected to paint an original blues image for the festival posters, which have become valuable collectors items.
In 2005, Hunt was honored by being selected as the artist for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Congo Square poster. He was given a special exhibit during the festival at Stella Jones Gallery and was honored with an exhibit at the Ogden Museum.
His work has become definitive images for posters and promotion of many other blues festivals around the country including Chicago Blues Festival, Telluride Blues Festival, the Ultimate Rhythm & Blues Cruise, and the Arkansas Blues Festival. Hunt was selected to create a painting for the 25th Anniversary of the Blues Foundation’s prestigious Handy Awards.
The Memphis Chapter of The Garden Club of America selected George Hunt in 2004 as the featured artist for its highly competitive and prestigious national floral arranging competition held at Dixon Museum Gallery and Gardens in Memphis. Teams from around the country studied Hunt’s work for over a year, then imported both familiar and exotic flower from the western hemisphere and around the globe in an attempt to match the vibrant colors and unique forms in his paintings.
Mr. Hunt’s work has been exhibited in both individual and group shows nationally, and it is part of the permanent collections of museums as well private collectors such as Steve Wynn, Anthony Quinn, Eddie Murphy, Steven Seagal, Justin Timberlake and David Simmons. He has been featured and written about in many publications including an Ebony Magazine feature in 2005. Hunt is represented by LongRiver Entertainment Group, Memphis, Tennessee.