Donalsonville-born John Clemmer (1921–2014) moved with his family to New Orleans in 1928. After graduating high school, Clemmer attended the New Orleans School of Art on scholarship. He moved to the French Quarter at this time to be near the school. While enrolled he was taught by esteemed Louisiana artists Paul Ninas, Xavier Gonzales, and Enrique Alferez. Two years after beginning at the New Orleans School of Art, Clemmer began work at Higgins Industries in New Orleans building landing craft and PT boats to support the US in the war effort. Clemmer would later serve in the US Army and the Army Air Force during World War II.
Following the war, and at only thirty years of age, Clemmer became the executive secretary of the Arts and Crafts Club and director of the New Orleans School of Art. In 1951, Clemmer joined the faculty of Tulane University as an instructor of drawing, painting and basic design in the School of Architecture. Later in his career, he taught art fundamentals at Tulane University’s Newcomb College concurrent with his teaching at the school of architecture. Clemmer left his position at Tulane in 1978 to accept an appointment as chairman of Newcomb’s Department of Art, where he remained until his retirement in 1986 as professor emeritus.
His style, subject matter, and media evolved steadily over the years, and many influences and inspirations informed his work. Among them was his enduring interest in humanity’s spiritual life and relationship to the metaphysical as well as the physical world. Painted in the final decade of his life, this triptych of Honey Island Swamp in St. Tammany Parish offers a splendid view of sunlight filtering through cypress trees in one of the most pristine swampland habitats in the country.
John Clemmer, Honey Island Swamp, 2003. Oil on canvas, 59.75 x 24 inches. Gift of Dottie and John Clemmer. Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 2012.001.001