Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865-1937) is famous for her accurate and sensitive portraiture of the Pomo people of Northern California whom she worked with and painted almost exclusively during her long and successful career. Born in Potter Valley, California, Hudson displayed an aptitude for drawing at a young age and studied at the San Francisco School of Design in the 1880s, developing her skills in portraiture. She began exhibiting nationally in the 1890s as well as publishing her illustrations in periodicals like Cosmopolitan and Sunset thus establishing herself as one of America's earliest commercially successful female artists.
In 1892 the artist made a portrait of a crying Pomo baby swaddled in a basket cradle. Arguably her most recognized and famous painting "Little Mendocino" garnered attention and excitement when it was accepted at the 27th Industrial Exposition of the Mechanics’ Institute in 1893. Hudson was awarded a special silver metal for the piece and her name was established in the San Francisco art world of the time. The work was sold to an heiress shortly after and it travelled to the Worlds Fair in Chicago the following year where it received an honorable mention.
As Hudsons star rose somewhat of a scandal regarding "Little Mendocino" did too. In 1895 the original oil painting was put for sale in a San Francisco shop window. Alongside it was a near identical replica priced for significantly less. The artistic community of the city was outraged by what they regarded as the mistreatment of one of their own, complaints were made and eventually Hudsons' painting was removed from the window. Following the original scandal, a surprising amount of copies have been discovered, mostly dating from the last five years of the 19th century, all by unidentified artists. Today copies of the painting regularly appear on the contemporary art market.
Grace Hudson continued to paint prolifically during her lifetime producing over 680 works primarily in oil but also in watercolor, ink, crayon, pencil and charcoal. The Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House was established in 1986 in Ukiah, California to preserve her legacy.