Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd are well-known for their works and life in Roswell and the Southwest. Their paintings can be seen at the Roswell Museum and Art Center and in the Hurd-La Rinconada Gallery in San Patricio where both artists moved from Wyeth’s home in Pennsylvania.
Hurd (1904-1984) and Wyeth (1907-1997) were important contributors to the arts of both the Philadelphia region and the Southwest. Hurd, a native of Roswell, studied with N.C. Wyeth in Chadds Ford during the 1920s. While there, he met Wyeth’s eldest daughter, Henriette, a talented painter whose lyrical large-scale canvases had quickly earned her critical recognition following her graduation from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, according to the website michenerartmuseum.org. Both worked together with Henriette Wyeth’s younger brother Andrew under N.C. Wyeth. Hurd and Henriette Wyeth married in 1929.
After going back and forth between New Mexico and Pennsylvania, the couple permanently moved to their ranch in Hondo Valley in 1940.
While Wyeth and Hurd achieved great recognition in the Southwest, they were forgotten in the north, mostly because of Wyeth’s father N.C. Wyeth and her younger brother Andrew overshadowed Henriette Wyeth’s work with time.
Early works of Wyeth and Hurd during their time in Pennsylvania are mostly unknown in New Mexico, just as their later work never appeared to the public in Pennsylvania.
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“Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective” brings both artists works together — a first since 1967.
This unique new retrospective is the project of two curators, Kristen M. Jensen, former Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, chief curator at the James A. Michener Museum of Art in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and Sara Woodbury, curator of collections and exhibitions at RMAC.
“Kirsten called me about doing a show on Hurd and Wyeth in the summer of 2014,” Woodbury said. “She had gotten the idea from Anna B. McCoy, an artist and the niece of Henriette Wyeth. I thought it was an important project and agreed to collaborate.”
Asked about the focus of the exhibition, Woodbury said, “‘Magical and Real’ explores how both Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd established independent artistic voices within the Wyeth family. N.C. Wyeth, Henriette’s father and Peter’s teacher, was one of the most celebrated American illustrators of the early 20th century, creating dynamic illustrations for “Treasure Island,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Odyssey” and more.
“He was both a strong artist and personality. Peter and Henriette were both profoundly influenced by him, but they also wanted to set themselves apart from him artistically, and did so in different ways. Henriette found her voice through Modernism, using abstraction to create beautiful, provocative compositions that explore her personal experiences as a woman artist in the 20th century.
“Her works became more naturalistic after she settled in New Mexico, but she continued to use unusual compositions and arrangements to create works that explore the magical qualities of the everyday world. Peter expressed himself artistically through the New Mexico landscape. He applied what he had learned from the Wyeths to the land he knew intimately, creating works that both underscore the unique beauty of the Southwest and demonstrate his deep knowledge of its ecology and cultures.”
Woodbury said viewers in Roswell will be surprised by the variety of work on view.
“Roswell and its neighboring communities in southeast New Mexico have long recognized the importance of Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth, and are quite familiar with their southwestern work,” Woodbury said. “What this exhibition aims to do is introduce our visitors to the national scope of their careers, and I think viewers will really appreciate the variety of both their oeuvres.
“From Wyeth, you’ll get to see several beautiful examples of portraits and still lifes. You’ll also get to see her deeply evocative fantasy scenes, works that are very different from the more naturalistic paintings she did in New Mexico. From Hurd, you’ll get to see examples of the early work he did in Pennsylvania, including illustrations that really reflect the influence of N.C. Wyeth. There are also several egg tempera paintings in the exhibition, so viewers will get to see some new works alongside old favorites from our collection.”
This exhibit is four years in the making and both curators can be proud about this Herculean achievement. “As an art historian, I’m proud of the work I’ve done on this show,” Woodbury said. “As my co-curator and I learned through our research, Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth are nationally significant artists, but they aren’t that well-known outside of New Mexico. My hope is that this exhibition isn’t an end-all project, but a means for other scholars and writers to get into their work. I hope Magical and Real is just the first of many scholarly exhibitions and publications to explore the work of these two important artists.
“As a curator, it’s been really gratifying to not only share the work of these two important artists, but also to introduce the Roswell Museum’s collection to a broader public. Our collection comprises about a quarter of the show, so we’ve got a very good representation. When this exhibition was on view in Pennsylvania this winter, there were likely a lot of visitors going through who weren’t especially familiar with the Roswell museum. Now they know we’ve got a remarkable collection and that we’re definitely worth a visit.”
The opening reception will be on June 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at RMAC, 100 W. 11th St. The next day, on June 16 at 2 p.m., a panel discussion with the co-curators, Jensen and Woodbury, takes place at the RMAC, followed at 3 p.m. by the lecture, “The Life and Work of Henriette Wyeth,” given by Jensen.
For more information, visit roswell-nm.gov/346/Exhibitions or call 575-624-6744.
Vision editor Christina Stock can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 309, or email@example.com.