Although born in New York on 10 September 1869 and resident in America until she was twenty-four, Anna Hope Hudson, known throughout her life as Nan, spent most of her life living and travelling in Europe, particularly in her adopted homeland, France (fig.1). Her mother died when she was only nine years old and following the death of her father, Colonel Edward McKenny Hudson, in 1892, she was left a young woman of independent means and the freedom to choose her own path in life. She elected to go to Paris and study painting and it was there that she met Ethel Sands, a fellow American and art student who became her lifelong friend and companion. Although quite different in temperament and character, the two women had many interests and values in common and their friendship was enduring and loving, as is testified by their personal correspondence now held in the Tate Archive. They studied together in 1896 at the studio of the French painter Eugène Carrière (1849–1906), and from January 1897 Hudson also took classes with the Flemish painter Henri Evenepoel (1872–1899).
The mutual sympathy and affection between Hudson and Sands meant that they found it hard to be separate from one another, yet they favoured very different ways of life. While Sands loved England and the social diversions of London, Hudson preferred a quieter existence in Paris or other parts of France. They very quickly got into the habit of dividing their time between France and England to accommodate their preferences, alternating periods of painting with travelling, socialising and entertaining. Hudson was an independent and unconventional woman for her day. The writer Virginia Woolf, who described her as ‘dour & upstanding’, also recorded that she was always ‘stylishly dressed’.1 Walter Sickert once called her ‘the radiant & dashing horsewoman of a young man’s dreams’,2 and his charismatic portrait of her, Miss Hudson at Rowlandson House c.1910 (fig.2), shows her standing hand on hip and looking directly at the viewer, and captures her independent spirit and flair.
Anna Hope Hudson, generally known as Nan Hudson, (1869-1957) was an American-born artist who lived and worked in France and England. She was the life partner of Ethel Sands.