Peter Hurd (1904-1984), American painter, husband of painter Henriette Wyeth, and protege of N.C. Wyeth.

Hurd was born in Roswell, New Mexico in 1904, and was educated at West Point military academy, which he eventually left to take up painting as a profession. Hurd was an apprentice of N.C. Wyeth in the early 1920's, studying with the elder Wyeth at his home in Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania. It was there that Hurd met (and married, in 1929) Wyeth's daughter Henriette.

The styles of Peter Hurd and Andrew Wyeth are quite similar. Hurd's landscapes of New Mexico evoked the spirit of the place much as Andrew's landscapes of Pennsylvania did the same. Hurd is also credited with introducing Andrew Wyeth (and later N.C.) to egg tempera paints - handmade paint which uses egg yolk and water to bind pigment, rather than oil. Andrew eventually became a master of the tempera medium.

Hurd and Wyeth spent most of their life in Hurd's native New Mexico on a ranch in San Patricio, about 50 miles west of Roswell, bordering the Lincoln National Forest. Many of his landscapes and portraits are of New Mexico and its inhabitants, including the lovely Eve of St. John, a painting of the niece of his ranch hand José, whom he also painted. Hurd had an excellent eye for color, and captured the beauty of the New Mexico sky and landscape quite well.

Interestingly, Hurd was commissioned to paint the official portrait of (then) President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1967. However, Johnson hated the painting, calling it "the ugliest thing [he] ever saw!" It depicts Johnson standing on the roof of a building (I assume the White House) holding a book at sunset, with the dome of the Capitol glowing in the background. Apparently it became a joke in Washington, where "artists could be seen, but not Hurd." The painting was instead given to the Smithsonian Institution by Hurd, and now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Like much of the Wyeth family art, many of his works have been reproduced, and should be easy to find. The Wyeth-Hurd Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico (not far from the plaza) showcases many of his (and the Wyeth's) works. It's worth a stop (along with, of course, the O'Keeffe Museum) when you're in Santa Fe.

Sources: various, including www.wyethhurd.com, www.npg.si.edu, and my meanderings through both New Mexico and the Chadd's Ford, PA region of the Delaware Valley (particularly the Brandywine River Museum).

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