It is impossible to describe the life and career of Hudson without reference to Sands. The two American women met in Paris in 1894 while they were both art students and maintained a very close relationship for over sixty years. The art historian Wendy Baron described them as ‘two independent, individual women with many tastes and interests in common, whose mutual love and understanding rescued them from the loneliness of spinsterhood’.5
Throughout their lives they found it hard to be apart, yet their preference for different lifestyles necessitated periods of separation. As Sands described it, ‘although we love each other so dear, we don’t like the same places, or the same things, or the same people’.6
Hudson was a Francophile. Having left the United States during her twenties she rarely returned to her native country, preferring throughout her life to live, work and travel in France. Conversely, Sands loved England and owned two houses there, a country house at Newington, Oxford, and from 1913 a house in the Vale, Chelsea. The two women adopted the habit of spending months alternating between residences in France and England and, following the First World War, Hudson decided to find a permanent residence in France with the idea that she and Sands could spend the summers there together.7
In the summer of 1920 she leased, and then bought, the Château d’Auppegard, a large seventeenth-century house situated about ten miles inland from Dieppe, near Offranville in the Normandy countryside. It became her principal home until her death, thirty-seven years later, in 1957. She and Sands tended to live there together each year between May and September, holding weekend salons for interesting guests including writers, politicians and artists.8
During the winter Sands returned to England and their letters testify to their unhappiness at being apart. Hudson’s painting Château d’Auppegard
is inscribed on the back of the canvas, ‘Darling Ethel, from Nan’, and was perhaps intended to hang in Sands’s house in London and remind her of Auppegard and her friend when the two were separated. Probably owing to its personal nature, the painting seems never to have been exhibited during either woman’s lifetime.