Ethel Sands


Ethel Sands, ‘Tea with Sickert’ c.1911–12
Tea with Sickert c.1911–12
© The estate of Ethel Sands
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In Tate Britain

Artist biography

Ethel Sands (fig.1) was best known in her own lifetime as one of the most important hostesses in cultured English society in the early twentieth century. Along with such figures as Lady Ottoline Morrell and Lady Sibyl Colefax, she provided a venue and congenial atmosphere for artists, writers and other members of England’s cultural elite to meet, converse and exchange ideas. Frequent visitors to her Oxford house in Newington and London residences in Lowndes Street and later the Vale, Chelsea, included such notable names as Walter Sickert (fig.2), Augustus John, the writers Henry James and Arnold Bennett, and members of the Bloomsbury Group such as Virginia Woolf and Roger Fry.
Sands inherited a taste for socialising from her American parents, her father Mahlon Sands and her mother Mary Morton Hartpence, who had been a famous society beauty of her day, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1893–4.1 Their daughter and eldest child Ethel was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on 6 July 1873, but the following year the family moved to England where they settled permanently, returning to America for only two years when Ethel Sands was four. In London, the Sands enjoyed an extremely full social life, moving within fashionable and important circles that included the Marlborough House set, centred on the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. In 1888 her father was killed in a riding accident, and her mother continued to bring her children up alone. Aged twenty-one, in 1894 Sands chose to go to Paris to study painting and it was here she met her lifelong partner Anna (Nan) Hope Hudson. In 1896 her mother also died prematurely, leaving Sands with the responsibility of caring for two younger brothers as well as a considerable fortune. The conferral of independent means enabled Sands to pursue painting without the necessity of supporting herself through the sale of works.

Nicola Moorby
March 2003


Wikipedia entry

Ethel Sands (6 July 1873 – 19 March 1962) was an American-born artist and hostess who lived in England from her early childhood. She studied art in Paris for several years under Eugène Carrière, and it was there that she met Anna Hope Hudson (Nan), her life partner. Her works were influenced by the artist Edouard Vuillard and Walter Sickert, and were generally of still lifes and interior scenes, many of which are of Château d'Auppegard that she shared with Hudson in France. Sands was a Fitzroy Street Group and London Group member. Her works are in the collections of museums, the National Portrait Gallery, London and public collections. During both world wars, she nursed soldiers; she established a hospital in France in World War I. In 1916 she was made a citizen of England.

Due to her family's wealth she collected art and was a patron, but she is best known as a hostess for the cultural elite in her homes in England and Hudson's house in France. Her friends included Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, Augustus John and many other writers and artists of her day. She continued to entertain into the 1950s when she was in her late 70s and 80s.

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Sketches, letters, etc.

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