Bucks County Herald

Michener exhibition celebrates art of Wyeth woman and her husband



Kirsten M. Jensen, the Michener Museum’s Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest chief curator, talks about “Peter Hurd in a Landscape” the final portrait of Hurd, painted by his wife, Henriette Wyeth, in 1972. Hanging beside it is Hurd’s self-portrait from 1956.

Michener Museum of Art in Doylestown, “Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd,” showcases the art of a woman from the celebrated Wyeth family, and the art of her husband.

Co-organized by the Michener Art Museum and Roswell Museum and Art Center in Roswell, N.M., the exhibition includes more than 100 works by Wyeth, Hurd, and family members – including Andrew Wyeth, Henriette’s brother, and N.C. Wyeth, her father. It is on view through May 6.

“Magical & Real” is the first exhibition to concentrate on the work and career of Henriette, N.C. Wyeth’s oldest child, and her husband and N.C.’s student, Peter Hurd, said Kirsten M. Jensen, the Michener’s Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest chief curator.

“It’s also the first scholarly project to probe family archives to flesh out their relationships to other family members, particularly to N.C. and Andrew.”

Very little attention has been given to N.C. Wyeth’s role in the artistic development of his daughters, Henriette, Ann and Carolyn, according to Jensen. “Henriette grew up with her father. She had his undivided attention for many, many years,” Jensen said. “I think he found her his intellectual equal in many, many ways.”

Henriette received her first portrait commission at age 15. She studied with her father and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, enrolling at age 16. She quickly earned critical recognition for her large-scale canvases and local recognition as a portraitist.

However, she was largely forgotten when she moved permanently to Roswell in 1940 and her studio became her brother Andrew’s. He later said he believed Henriette was the most talented of all.

Hurd, who convinced N.C. Wyeth to take him on as a student, felt indebted to him for doing so, but also wanted to establish himself and his own artistic voice, said Sara Woodbury, curator of Collections and Exhibitions at Roswell Museum and Art Center.

He was able to do so upon his return to New Mexico, prior to marrying Henriette, and after four years of marriage in Pennsylvania, the couple moved to New Mexico for good. Woodbury said Hurd’s love of light an atmospheric effects can be seen even in his Pennsylvania landscapes, but he is best known for his paintings of the southwest.

“He loved egg tempra,” she said. “He felt it was the medium that allowed him to capture the light.”

Woodbury said, Hurd always downplayed his ability as an oil painter, in part because he was intimidated by the Wyeth’s. She said it wasn’t until he discovered egg tempra, to which he introduced N.C. and Andrew, “that he said, ‘I’ve got it.’”

In addition to affecting Hurd’s work, the move west also had an impact on Henriette’s paintings, both in style and tone.

Most of the works in “Magical & Real” have been in private collections since they were created and have not been seen in public. After being on view at the Michener, the exhibition will travel to Roswell, where it will be on display from June 15 to Sept. 16.

Advance tickets and group tours for the exhibition are available at MichenerArtMuseum.org or 215-340-9800.

jarthur@buckscountyherald.com

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