Grace Hudson

This painting by G. Hudson of a Indian Girl with Kachina is 14×8 inch oil on canvas. It is part of the Farhat Art Museum fine art collection of American Indian.


Grace Hudson was born, lived most of her life, and died in Potter Valley, near Ukiah, California. The daughter of a newspaperman and photographer, she became interested in Native Americans as a young girl, and this was to become her specialty as an adult artist.

At age 14, Hudson left Potter Valley to study at the School of Design in San Francisco with Virgil Williams, Raymond Yelland, Domenico Tojetti, and Oscar Kunath. Upon completion of her studies in 1884, she returned to the Ukiah area where she began teaching painting. Five years later she opened her own studio.

The following year, in 1890, Grace married John Hudson, a doctor who gave up his medical career to work for Chicago’s Field Museum as an ethnologist and researcher on the local Pomo Indians. Her husband’s career change was to have a profound influence on Hudson’s own art career. Perhaps the pivotal event which led her to an exclusive concentration on Native Americans, and particularly children, as subjects, however, happened in Chicago in 1893. Hudson had exhibited a painting of a crying Indian baby called Little Mendocino at the World Columbian Exposition. The work received enormous critical acclaim and convinced the artist to focus all her efforts in this area.

 

grace carpenter hudson

 

Farhat Art Museum Collection

Hudson did suspend her Native American paintings briefly during a 1901 trip to Hawaii, where she began to paint Chinese and Japanese children. She soon switched to figure paintings of native Hawaiian children, and these portraits were later exhibited in San Francisco to great admiration. In 1904 Hudson was commissioned by her husband’s employer, the Field Museum, to paint portraits of Pawnee Indians in Oklahoma. The commission included painting chiefs and elders. Though older tribal members were often suspicious about having their images recorded, because of her long-term relationship with her Native neighbors in Ukiah Hudson was able to gain their trust.

Hudson gained fame for her specialized art and was a frequent contributing artist and illustrator to periodicals such as Sunset, Cosmopolitan, and Western Field. Despite her success in some circles, in her own time Hudson’s art was criticized for it subject matter, considered by some as “unworthy.” The great irony is that it is now considered by some as “too sentimental.” The Pomo Indians who lived in the area, and whom she painted so skillfully, did befriend her and called her “Painter Lady.” She and her husband had a totem pole erected in front of their house, and in general, were interested in all things Native. Whether or not she lost her objectivity when painting her subjects, her work is masterful in documenting their lives and culture.

Sources:
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
David Forbes: Encounters With Paradise
William Gerdts: Art Across America, vol 3;
Edan Hughes: Artists in California 1786-1940
Samuels and Samuels: Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West

Written by: Sarah Nelson
Douglas Frazer Fine Art, Ltd.

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