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 Grace Carpenter Hudson  (1865 - 1937)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: Indian portrait and genre painting, illustrator

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Grace Carpenter Davis is primarily known as Grace Carpenter Hudson

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Raised in Potter Valley, near Ukiah, California, Grace Hudson became an acclaimed painters of Native American subjects, especially the Pomo Indians, independent tribes of coastal and inland Northern California.  She left over 684 oil paintings and numerous pieces in other media including weavings, hooked rugs, and monochromatic sketches.  The Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah has the largest body of her remaining work.

As a child, she migrated with her family including a twin sister from Kansas Territory in 1857 and settled first in Grass Valley, California, and in 1860, they moved to Potter Valley, among the only white settlers.  The Pomo Indians had much suffering and early death, and she early developed a sympathy and concern for them.

Her mother was also one of the first schoolteachers among the tribes and collected their baskets because of her respect for their workmanship.  Her father had a business as journalist and photographer, and from him, she learned about the effects of light and composition.

Grace began art studies at age thirteen at the San Francisco Art Institute and later studied at the California School of Design with Virgil Williams and Raymond Yelland.  From Williams, she learned classical techniques of drawing and modelling from plaster casts in classical motif for sculpture.  The landscape class with Yelland was distinctive because it was held at the only art school in the country where pupils went into the outdoors directly to paint with their teachers.

Hudson got a reputation for working very rapidly and skillfully in her classes, and by age sixteen, won the Alvord Gold Medal, presented by the President of the San Francisco Art Association for the best full-length study in crayon.

In 1884, at age nineteen, she eloped with William Davis, a man fifteen years older. Her parents were extremely upset, and the marriage ended a year later.  She returned to Ukiah to paint, teach and illustrate for magazines including Sunset and Cosmopolitan, and Overland Monthly, and her work from that time period carries the signature "Grace Carpenter Davis."  She opened her studio to the public and exhibited her work which had no particular focus and included genre, landscapes, portraits and still lifes in all media.

In 1890 with her parents' blessing, she married John Wilz Napier Hudson, a physician for the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad Company who gave up practice to research the Pomo Indians and follow his deep interests in archeology and ethnography.  They shared a sense that the Indians were a vanishing race and should be portrayed with sensitivity and respect for their culture.

In 1891 a visit to her studio by H. Jay Smith opened the door for her recognition far beyond her own region when he ordered work by her for the Minneapolis Art Association exhibit where it got much attention.  A year later, a painting Little Mendocino, got much attention at the Midwinter Fair in San Francisco, and the following year it was hung at the World's Fair in Chicago.  There she received a diploma for honorable mention on the work.  From that time, her reputation was established, and she meticulously photographed and documented her oil paintings for posterity, one of the reasons being for copyright purposes because other artists tried to copy her popular work.

By 1900, her national reputation was secure, but she was exhausted, and she spent three months alone in Hawaii and then rejoined her husband, who had been named Assistant Ethnographer of the Field Columbian Museum.  She traveled widely with him and documented many other Indian tribes including the Pawnee in Oklahoma Territory.  Sadly many of her paintings and their extensive collection of Indian artifacts left behind in California were destroyed by the earthquake and fire of 1906.

In 1912, they moved into a Hopi style house in Ukiah and, with the exception of a trip to Europe in 1925, lived the rest of their lives there, active in the cultural life around them.  She had a unique studio with an elaborate system of moveable skylights which she manipulated from skills learned from her father. She painted from Indian models who came to her studio.

Her husband died in 1936, and she died a year later on March 23, just after her seventy-second birthday. They had no children and left their possessions to a nephew, Mark Carpenter who made their home with over 30,000 objects a museum that has expanded into a lasting public memorial to his unique aunt and uncle.

Source:
Paul Sternberg, Art by American Women



This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Potter Valley near Ukiah, CA on Feb. 21, 1865. Grace Carpenter showed artistic promise at an early age. After attending public schools in Ukiah and San Francisco, at age 14 she enrolled at the local School of Design. For five school terms she studied there with Virgil Williams, Raymond Yelland, Domenico Tojetti, and Oscar Kunath. After her marriage to Dr. John Hudson in 1890, she returned to Ukiah. Their home at 431 South Main (now a museum) was marked with a totem pole in front and was known as "The Sun House." The Pomo Indians who lived in the area accepted Grace as one of them and called her "Painter Lady." After her painting of Little Mendocino (a crying Pomo baby) caused a sensation at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, she then specialized in painting the Pomos. Most of her subjects were of the children and babies of the tribe, the older Pomos being superstitious about having their images recorded. Her oils chronicled the Pomo culture and are of great historical value. In addition to the Pomos she spent several months painting the native children of Hawaii in 1901 and a commission took her to Oklahoma to paint the Pawnees in 1904. Mrs. Hudson died at her Ukiah home on March 23, 1937 having left a great legacy to our national art. The monument marking her grave in Ukiah Cemetery is of her own design, a basalt shaft capped with a mourning phoenix. Exh: Calif. State Fair, 1879-1902; SFAA, 1892-1902; Kennedy-Rabjohn Gallery (SF), 1902 (solo); Schussler Gallery (SF), 1907; Del Monte Art Gallery (Monterey), 1907-10; Alaska-Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1909; Gould Gallery (LA), 1907; Kanst Gallery (LA), 1910. In: Oakland Museum; Field Museum (Chicago); CHS; Royal Gallery (London); NMAA; Orange Co. (CA) Museum; LACMA; MM.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
The Painter Lady; Artists of the American West (Samuels); American Art Annual 1909; Women Artists of the American West; Artists of the American West (Samuels); Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Calif. Hist. Society Quarterly, March 1958; Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); California State Library (Sacramento); SF Chronicle, 3-24-1937 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Douglas Frazer Fine Art, Ltd.:
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.

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.


Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, III:
Grace Hudson’s paintings of Indian children were enormously popular in her lifetime, and she created them by means of a thorough first-hand knowledge of the tribes in her native California.  She was born and raised in Ukiah, in the Potter Valley, the daughter of a newspaperman and photographer.  She received her formal art training in San Francisco, where she studied with Virgil Williams. In 1890, she married John W. N. Hudson, a prominent Pacific Coast ethnologist for the Field Museum of Chicago, who diligently researched the life, language, and art of California’s Pomo Indians.

As a direct result of her husband’s activities, Grace Hudson found her subjects and began painting genre portraits of Indian children, often depicted in lighthearted human interest situations.  She began exhibiting them and attracted immediate praise. One critic singled out her work at an exhibit in 1897 and proclaimed that her pictures touched “the popular heart” and effectively conveyed “human thoughts and interest” to the viewer. Grace Hudson’s work appealed to a popular audience with a turn-of-the-century taste for the sentimental.

Yet as popular as they were with a broad audience, Hudson’s painting often succeed today on their own terms.  Hudson’s biographer has written that “most of the miniature canvases of 1900 were intended to fill the insatiable demand for her works which had grown in the art public.  Even as she worked, Grace increasingly sought respite from the strict routine of her studio.  When the hop season began, she visited the summer camps along the Russian River, prepared to record another aspect of the lives of the local Indians.”

ReSources include: The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, Dr. Rick Stewart, Hawthorne Publishing Company, 1986

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
GRACE CARPENTER HUDSON (1865-1937)

Thought by many art critics to be California's greatest painter, Grace Carpenter Hudson was born near Ukiah in Potter Valley, California. The daughter of a newspaperman-photographer, she studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco and was a pupil of Virgil Williams at a time when San Francisco was an important art center. She returned to Ukiah, one hundred miles north along the "Redwood Highway" to teach painting. During this time she also became an illustrator for Sunset, Cosmopolitan, and Western Field Magazines.

In 1890 she married John Hudson who was a Pacific Coast ethnologist for the Field Museum and a researcher on the language and art of the Pomo Indians. Immersed in their culture, Hudson began to specialize in painting the Indian children she spent so much time with. These are the works she later became so famous for even though she did travel and paint extensively throughout Europe and Hawaii.

In 1904 she was commissioned by the Field Museum to paint portraits of the Pawnee Indians, with a special series of the Indian chiefs of Oklahoma. She returned to Ukiah where she lived and painted actively until her death at the age of seventy-two.


Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel:
Grace Carpenter Hudson was born in the northern California town of Ukiah in 1865. She was educated in San Francisco at the School of Design, studying with Virgil Williams and Raymond Yelland.

Following her marriage in 1890, Hudson returned to Ukiah, where she painted intimate portraits of the local Pomo Indian children. Eastern audiences were fascinated by her works, which today represent an invaluable record of a vanishing culture.

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