Back to Her Tribe, 1898.
Grace Carpenter Hudson (American, 1865–1937)
Oil on canvas, 27 × 20 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2017.76.

Raised in Potter Valley near Ukiah, California, Grace Carpenter Hudson was an acclaimed painter of Native American subjects, especially the Pomo Indians of coastal and inland Northern California. After attending public schools in Ukiah and San Francisco, she enrolled in San Francisco’s California School of Design as a teenager, studying there for five terms with Virgil Williams, Raymond Yelland, and others.

In 1890, the artist married John Hudson, a physician for the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad Company, who quit practicing medicine in order to research the Pomo Indians and follow his interests in archeology and ethnography. With her husband, she returned to Ukiah and became known to locals as the Painter Lady.

Hudson achieved a national reputation during her lifetime. She produced her first important work, National Thorn, which depicted a sleeping Pomo baby in a cradle basket, in 1891. Two years later, she painted a crying Pomo infant, a work she called Little Mendocino. The popularity of the second painting in particular, which was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, confirmed her reputation and direction.

This painting depicts Joseppa Dick (1865–1905), a well-known Pomo basket weaver. Joseppa and her husband had one son, Billy Peters. In 1898, the year Hudson painted this work, Billy—then almost a teenager—was forcibly taken to Chemawa Indian School in Oregon. Hudson and her husband, friends of Joseppa, tried to intervene on her behalf but were unsuccessful. While at the school, Billy contracted tuberculosis. He died in California in 1901. Joseppa died four years later.

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