To the excitement of the art world, a new discovery by the “Titian of Louisiana,” Julien Hudson, has been discovered in a private Rhode Island collection. This signed portrait of a Creole brunette joins the exhibition “In Search of Julien Hudson: Free Artist of Color in Pre-Civil War New Orleans,” which opened at the Worchester Museum in Massachusetts on December 9, bringing the total of known Hudson portraits to eight. All the pieces depict white and black individualized subjects, painted in oil on cavas and signed “J. Hudson.”
The first professional portraitist of African American descent, Hudson was the son of an English ship chandler and a free woman of Creole descent. Despite the unusual degree of opportunity afforded Hudson as a free man of color in New Orleans, racially charged criticism of his work cast a dark cloud over his life, which mysteriously ended in possible murder or suicide in 1844, at the age of 33. The century-long search for more information on this elusive American art pioneer has become easier through this latest discovery.