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Peter Hurd

(1904—1984)


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(1904–84).

Painter and printmaker. Known for depictions of life in the Southwest and for portraits, he shared with other regionalists in the American Scene movement an interest in recording the experience of ordinary people. Harold Hurd Jr. was born in Roswell, New Mexico, and made his home in the area most of his life. After two years at the United States Military Academy at West Point, he transferred in 1923 to Haverford College near Philadelphia for a year. Subsequently, he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and for several years with artist-illustrator N. C. Wyeth, whose daughter Henriette Wyeth he married in 1929. Drawn back to his native region, he made its spacious landscapes and unsophisticated inhabitants his main subjects. In The Dry River (Roswell [New Mexico] Museum and Art Center, 1938), a diminutive rancher on horseback crosses the foreground of a steeply rolling landscape thrown into relief by low shafts of sunlight. A woman in the middle distance waits before a humble dwelling, but the narrative of their lives is subordinate to the vast and empty landscape caught at a poetic moment. Hurd also worked in Texas and New Mexico as a federal art project muralist and served from 1942 to 1945 as a war correspondent for Life magazine. His official portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson (National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1967) occasioned a public controversy when Johnson rejected it as “the ugliest thing I ever saw.” After an incapacitating illness of several years, Hurd died in Roswell. Sketch Book (1971) includes autobiographical notes. His letters and journals appeared as My Land Is the Southwest (1983), edited by Robert Metzger.

Subjects: Art.


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