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Julien Hudson

Free Creole of Color

( active 1830-40 )
"Freelance Painter"





Julien Hudson



Julien Hudson was a freeman of mixed race from New Orleans. Born into the so-called mulatto group, Hudson partook of the French-influenced, flamboyant, upper-class lifestyle that was available to well-born free Creoles in New Orleans.

More on Julian Hudson here


More on Julian ..Click here


Julien Hudson is known as the first African American or French Creole artist operating in America whose self-portrait has been identified. Hudson's father was John Thomas Hudson, a British ship chandler and ironmonger, and his mother was Suzanne Désirée Marcos, a free New Orleans quadroon (a child of parents descended from a mixture of African and Caucasian genes).

Hudson studied with Alexandre Abel du Pujol in Paris after 1827. In 1831, Hudson opened his own studio in Bienville Street, New Orleans. He specialized in portraits and miniatures. He also taught drawing.

One of his important works as his painting Battle of New Orleans (1815), which documented the contribution made to the War of 1812 by the famous corps of free Black soldiers and its white commander, Colonel Michel Jean Fortier, Jr. Hudson is also distinguished for painting, in 1839, the only known self-portrait of an Creole artist in the antebellum period.

His painting of the Battle of New Orleans (painted 1839?) features the free black soldiers who fought with Colonel Jean Michel Fortier Jr. in 1815, during the War of 1812. (This painting has been published as dated to 1815, but that would mean Hudson painted the work at the age of four. Highly unlikely.)


American/New Orleans, c. 1811-1844),

“Portrait of a Creole Gentleman”

, oil on canvas, unsigned, remnant of framing label en verso, 13 in. x 10 3/4 in., in a period gilt frame. [$10000/15000]


Creole Boy with a moth

...By Julian Hudson


His Biography


Julien Hudson, a free man of color, enjoyed a successful career as an artist and teacher in antebellum New Orleans. His father was an English ship chandler and iron monger and his mother, Suzanne Désirée Marcos, was a New Orleans free quadroon. During this period, there was a large class of free men of color who worked as professional artists, musicians, writers, craftsmen and cigar merchants in the city.

Initially Hudson studied with New Orleans artist Antonio Meucci and later furthered his training in Paris. In 1831 he opened a studio on Bienville Street and advertised as a specialist in portrait and miniature painting.

Hudson’s signed “Self Portrait” in the Louisiana State Museum Collection (currently on display in the Cabildo) is similar in style and treatment to the “Portrait of a Creole Gentleman.” Both of these paintings are relatively small in terms of standard sizes for Louisiana portraits of this period, and apparently reflect Hudson’s abilities at miniature painting.


Important Works:

Only four paintings have been identified.

  • Self Portrait, 1839, Louisiana State Museum, Baton Rouge

  • Jean Michel Fortier III, 1839, Louisiana State Museum, Baton Rouge

  • Battle of New Orleans, 1839?

  • Portrait of a Creole Gentleman, n.d.

Date and Place of Death:

1844, New Orleans (?)


Driskell, David C. Two Hundred Year of African American Art.
Los Angeles and New York: Los Angeles County Museum and Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.


Reference: Patricia Brady, “A Mixed Palette: Free Artists of Color of Antebellum New Orleans,” The International Review of African American Art: 19th Century African American Fine and Craft Arts of the South, Hampton University Museum, Virginia, Volume 12, No. 3, pp.5-8.

More Paintings from Julian Hudson..

From the

Andrew Hopkins Art Selection


1830's portrait of a New Orleans free woman of color
Portrait of a Black Man by Julien Hudson; 1835

This is the only portrait known in the 19th century of a white father acknowledging his mix race black son.

A portrait of Asher Moses Nathan and Son, pastel, c. 1845 by Free black man of color artist Jules Lion.

Creole Boy with a Moth by Julien Hudson; 1835;
Portrait of a free man of color Attributed to Julien Hudson

A wonderful late 18th century New Orleans collage depicting a Free woman of color with her mixed race quadroon daughter
Marie Thereze Carmelite Anty Metoyer by French free man of color artist living in New Orleans Jules Lion
Jean Michel Fortier III, 1839 by Julien Hudson


Julien Hudson

a free man of color

was born January 9, 1811 in NewOrleans, Louisiana. His father, John T. Hudson was a white British merchant, ship chandler and ironmonger. His mother, Suzanne Desiree Marcos, was a free New Orleans Creole quadroon (of Caucasian and mix African origins). The relationship between Julien Hudson's parents in New Orleans was called Plaçage a recognized extralegal system in which white French and Spanish and later Creole men entered into the equivalent of common-law marriages with women of mix African, Indian and white (European) Creole descent. The term comes from the French placer meaning "to place with".

The women of color were not legally recognized as wives, but were known as placées; their relationships were recognized among the free people of color as mariages de la main gauche or left-handed marriages. Many were often quarteronnes or quadroons, the offspring of a European and a mulatto, but plaçage did occur between whites and mulattoes and blacks.

The system flourished throughout the French and Spanish colonial periods, and apparently reached its zenith during the latter, between 1769 and 1803. It was not limited to Louisiana, but also flourished in the cities of Natchez and Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; St. Augustine and Pensacola, Florida;. Julien Hudson's parents were a little unusual in the fact that his father was a White Anglo-Saxon.

Before studying painting, Julien Hudson briefly was a tailor’s apprentice in the mid 1820’s but his true calling was to be a artist. He then studied in New Orleans with Antoine Meucci, an Italian itinerant miniaturist painter between 1826 and 1827 working in New Orleans. Meucci arrived in the United States from Rome, Italy in 1818 and worked in various American cities including New York, Portland (Maine), Richmond, Baltimore, Charleston, Salem MA, and New Orleans.


Creole Art and Culture


His wife Nina was also a miniature painter . During this period he also studied with German painter François (Franz) Fleischbein also working in New Orleans .Hudson’s learning then continued in Paris with well-known French artist Alexandre Abel de Pujol (after 1827). After returning to New Orleans, Julien Hudson opened his own studio on Bienville Street in the French Quarter in 1831 and became a successful painter and art teacher. He advertised his services as a miniature and portrait painter, and drawing instructor.

During this time, many free men of color became professional artists, musicians or writers in Antebellum New Orleans. Julien Hudson, was the second earliest known portraitist of African heritage to have worked in the United States before the Civil War with the first being Joshua Johnson from Baltimore, Maryland we will have a post on him soon. Unfortunately although Julien Hudson worked in New Orleans as a artist from the early 1830 until his death in 1844 just a hand few paintings signed by him and just a few more attributed to him.

Julien Hudson died young at age 33 in 1844 in New Orleans.


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