Peter Hurd (February 22, 1904 - July 9, 1984) was an American painter who lived and worked in San Patricio, New Mexico. He is equally acclaimed for his western landscapes and his portraits. He studied under the famous illustrator N.C. Wyeth and was married to Wyeth’s eldest daughter, Henriette Wyeth, also an accomplished painter.
Henriette Wyeth, "Portrait of Peter Hurd", 1936
|Born||February 22, 1904|
Roswell, New Mexico, United States
|Died||July 9, 1984 (aged 80)|
|Known for||Illustration, painting|
Peter originally attended military school before he realized he loved painting and wanted to pursue it professionally. He attended the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell and was halfway through West Point when he changed course to follow his true calling. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he became a private pupil of N. C. Wyeth. the famous illustrator and painter. Hurd worked alongside Wyeth’s own children, Andrew and Henriette, who were also studying under their father. Hurd worked as Wyeth's assistant at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for a number of years. In 1929, he married Henriette Wyeth. They would have three children, Peter, Carol, and Michael Hurd.
In the mid-'30s the Hurds moved to San Patricio, New Mexico, settling on 40 acres that would grow into the 2200 acre Sentinel Ranch. The ranch and its surrounds provided endless material for their work, as their painting careers developed side by side. Henriette focused on floral studies, oil portraits and still life paintings. Peter worked at capturing the landscape and the people who lived within it, and brought it into being. His large egg tempera paintings of the local landscape earned him national recognition and were published in Life magazine. Later, during WW2, Life magazine sent Peter Hurd all over the world as a combat correspondent with the US Air Force. He covered almost all the fronts of the far-flung battle line, creating hundreds of War Sketches that range from poignant to comic.
Hurd’s years with the Air Force had a profound effect on his artistic work. He had always been a careful and precise worker when he worked in tempera, but as an embedded war reporter documenting urgent or fleeting moments, he had to draw much more quickly. He also began using watercolor, which he soon mastered. When he returned to painting the New Mexico landscapes, his work was characterized by a new freedom and looseness, but still displaying all the subtle tones of an innately gifted colorist.
Some of Peter Hurd’s most well-known portraits were of his neighbors, family, and friends at Sentinel Ranch. He loved to paint people who were deeply connected to the land, and always showed them outdoors, against the hills and sky. He wrote, “the ones I like best to paint are those whose lives are spent under the sky: Men whose clothing, skin and eyes are all conditioned by the wind.” His Portrait of Jose shows the foreman of Sentinel Ranch amid the ridges of the land he cared for. In what is perhaps Hurd’s hallmark work, Eve of St. John, Herrera’s daughter is bathed in the light of a candle she carries.
From 1953 to 1954, Hurd and his assistants painted a fresco mural in the rotunda of what was then the West Texas Museum (now Holden Hall) at Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in Lubbock. Hurd painted about one fresco per week over a two-year period, with depictions of pioneers and influential leaders of West Texas.
Hurd also painted the official portraits of two heads of state, President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Saudi King Faisal. LBJ famously rejected the 1967 Hurd portrait, for reasons unknown. The painting is now part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, in the Smithsonian Institution.
Many of his works, along with those of Henriette Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth, and Michael Hurd, can be seen at the Hurd-La Rinconada Gallery in San Patricio, New Mexico.
Some of Hurd's works include:
- J. Tillapaugh, University of Texas of the Permian Basin, "The Popular Culture Heritage of New Deal Muralists Peter Hurd and Tom Lea in West Texas", West Texas Historical Association, annual meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, February 27, 2010
- Bell, Jim. "The Art Problem at M.D. Anderson." KUHF. April 22, 2008. Retrieved on April 4, 2010.
- Turner, Allan (November 1, 2010). "Medical center mural saved". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
- Image Gallery of the Peter Hurd mural in rotunda of Holden Hall at Texas Tech University
- Peter Hurd Artwork Examples on AskART.
- Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth Hurd papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
- Two Hurd exhibition catalogs from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF)