Grace Hudson was born in Potter Valley, near Ukiah, California, where she lived for most of her life. 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. 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 Hudson married a doctor, John Hudson, 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 had a profound influence on Hudson’s own art career. The Pomo Indians who lived in the area, and whom she painted so skillfully, called her “Painter Lady.” However, the pivotal event that led her to an exclusive concentration on Native Americans, particularly children, as subjects, 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 gained fame for her specialized art, and was a frequent contributing artist and illustrator to periodicals such as Sunset, Cosmopolitan, and Western Field. 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. Hudson’s work appealed to a popular audience with a turn-of-the-century taste for the sentimental. However, despite her success in some circles, some criticized her art for its subject matter, considered by some as “unworthy.”
Hudson’s paintings often succeed today on their own terms, but the work she put into them came with a price. Her biographer wrote, “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.”
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. Hudson returned to Ukiah where she lived and painted actively until her death at the age of seventy-two.
Reference: The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, edited by Dr. Rick Stewart, AskArt.com