Ethel Sands Ethel Sands was born on 6 July 1873 in Newport, Rhode Island, the first child of Mary Morton Hartpence and Mahlon Sands, who married in 1872. She lived in England from her early childhood. She studied art in Paris for several years under Eugène Carrière.
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.
In 1874 the family left the United States for England, intending to only visit the country. However, Mahlon Sands and his family stayed in England and travelled among European countries. They also visited the United States annually and were there for an extended visit from 1877 to 1879. They kept their house in Newport, Rhode Island throughout this time.
Ethel Sands was raised in a respectable upper-class household in which her parents were "happily married". While her father was considered handsome and her mother beautiful, Anthony Powell states that some people wrote in their diaries and letters that she was plain. In her later years, Powell met her and said that "so great was her elegance, charm, capacity to be amusing in a no-nonsense manner, that I could well believed her to be good-looking in her youth.
Encouraged by artist John Singer Sargent, Sands studied painting in Paris at the Académie Carrière under Eugène Carrière for several years, beginning in 1894. There she met fellow student Nan Hudson, born Anna Hope Hudson in the United States, who became her life partner. During this time, Sands became the guardian of her two younger brothers following her mother's death in 1896.
Sands entertained artists and writers with the intention to nurture and discuss ideas relevant to their careers. Affiliated with the Bloomsbury Group, she was most well known as "one of the leading artist hostesses of her time," her lavish affairs were financially possible due to the significant wealth she inherited from her parents.
She was mainly at the Oxford, Newington house until 1920, but when in England she also entertained at her London Lowndes Street house, and between 1913 and 1937 at 15 Vale, Chelsea, London house.
She was a patron and collector of works by other contemporary artists. For instance, she commissioned Boris Anrep, a Russian immigrant, to create mosaics and murals in her Vale, Chelsea house. Sands continued to entertain into the 1950s with her friends, including Duncan Grant and Desmond MacCarthy, until he died in 1952.