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Wilson Hurley (American, 1924-2008)


Wilson Hurley was a man of many talents and interests. A graduate of West Point, he was an engineer and pilot, and later a successful attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He moved with his family to Santa Fe as a boy, and with his mother's encouragement, he began to develop his talent as a painter under the tutelage of local artist Theodore Van Soelen. Although art was an important and constant part of his life, he did not turn to painting as a way of making a living until he was 40 years old. As he did with all of his pursuits, Hurley came to excel at his newly chosen profession. He painted in the grand tradition of Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, but with a highly modern and scientific perspective. His canvases, often in large scale, bring the viewer up close to the beauty of the western landscape in great detail. He has garnered numerous awards, including the Prix de West purchase prize at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and his work has been the subject of retrospectives at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art in Corning, New York; the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana; and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. He was also presented with a lifetime achievement by the Albuquerque Museum of Art. His greatest artistic achievement was the creation of five mammoth murals at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Canyon Wall is a relatively early work, completed just before he decided to paint full time, but it reflects both his skill and technique and the primary subject he would pursue throughout his career. His most frequent subject was the New Mexico landscape near his Albuquerque home, and here he presents the beauty of that scene with brilliant light and confident brush strokes. A highly successful attorney and partner in his law firm, Hurley decided to leave that career after arranging the final affairs for a client with a terminal illness. Toward the end of their association, the client asked Hurley what he would do if he were faced with such an illness. As Hurley describes the incident, he said that the question prompted him to think about what he truly wanted to do. His answer was that he would like to find a studio with good north light and complete one good painting. He far exceeded that goal.

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