2004 Honored Artist
The Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale awards the title of 2004 Honored
Artist to a painter who illuminates the art world with grand landscapes
of the American West inspired, like all of his art, by the pure
emotions that power his heart. While celebrating the artistry of
Wilson Hurley, this second annual award commemorates an association
with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center dating back almost thirty
years and including a one-man retrospective at the Whitney Gallery
of Western Art in 1985.
Wilson Hurley was still an “up-and-coming
artist” in May 1976 when he answered the doorbell of his Albuquerque
home, still dressed in his pajamas, and encountered a surprise delegation
of art connoisseurs led by Peg Coe, William E. Weiss and Peter Hassrick.
These leaders of the Cody art scene were on a scouting mission through
the Southwest to acquire contemporary works for the Whitney.
As he enters his eighties, Hurley still fondly recalls
the day the Cody entourage became enamored of his “View from
the Mohave Wall,” and agreed to purchase the 60.25 x 90.25”
oil for the Historical Center’s collection. At the time, Hurley
was suffering from a “mysterious ailment,” and this
unexpected gift sparked him out of his slump.
“That picked me up out of the gutter,”
Hurley notes. “When they asked if my Grand Canyon painting
was for sale, and then they bought it, I clicked my heels three
times and all of a sudden I was better.”
The Cody group spotted in Hurley’s paintings
the evolution of an artistic gift now widely acclaimed as comparable
to luminist Thomas Moran and perhaps the greatest among living American
landscape painters. In June 2004, Southwest Art highlighted Hurley’s
“dauntingly beautiful work” and his ability to create
“emotionally charged, elegantly composed visions of distinctively
monumental American landscapes.”
While he’s best known as a landscape painter,
Hurley shuns that title and prefers to be known simply as a painter.
He continues to paint varied subjects, from aircraft to portraits,
reflecting the remarkably varied experiences of his own life.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1924, he grew up in Virginia
and summered in New Mexico. He graduated from West Point in 1945,
flew air rescue missions in the South Pacific until 1949, earned
a law degree from The George Washington University, and practiced
law in New Mexico for thirteen years. His interest in art dates
to childhood, but he did not become a full-time artist until he
reached his early forties.
Since plunging into painting in 1965, Hurley has
logged many shows and awards and placed more than 1,000 paintings
in private and corporate collections. He has works in ten museum
collections including the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Gilcrease
Museum and Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage.
During his career, Hurley has cultivated this conviction:
“Paint from the heart, and don’t be persuaded by what’s
in fashion. Most people whose works endure are not those who followed
the fashion. We all want recognition and sales, but if you paint
for that purpose, you’re chasing a mirage.”