Written by Wilson’s artist/wife Rosalyn Roembke Hurley, The Life and Art of Wilson Hurley: Celebrating the Richness of Reality focuses on her husband’s four-decade commitment to sharing what he described as “a very real love that I have for the world. I experience physical pleasure when I look at it.”
Renowned for depicting landscapes, weather phenomena, and space exploration into our solar system, Hurley had a remarkable ability to convey both the richness of reality, while simultaneously compelling viewers to revel in the magnificence of a moment. His philosophy of combining science and art—head and heart— is apparent in everything from a dramatic sunrise at the Grand Canyon to a still life of a night-blooming cereus blossom.
Often working in large formats, his monumental “Windows to the West” project at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is covered from conception through his innovations in painting, shipping, mounting, and installing five 16-by-36-foot triptychs.
Highlights of Hurley’s youth include growing up in Leesburg, VA, pursuit of degrees at West Point and The George Washington University Law School, and a lifelong love of flying. Paintings from his service as a pilot during the Vietnam War illustrate how viewing the world from a cockpit impacted Hurley’s predilection for glorious cloud formations.
His studies of the Old Masters and artists such as George Inness, John Constable, and the Impressionists reinforced his decision at age 40 to become more than a Sunday painter and to follow the advice of Peter Hurd not to attend art school but to commit himself to learning from the giants of the past and then “paint, and paint some more.”
Rosalyn, whose painting career was mentored by her husband, also shares Wilson’s methods, techniques, and philosophy of art whether painting in the studio or outdoors. His commitment to plein air fieldwork at the behest of his mentor Bob Lougheed reveals why Hurley also paid forward his knowledge. In letters published here for the first time, Hurley elucidates his personal goals as examples that might help young and mid-career painters find their unique paths. In judging art, as he was often asked to do, he offers insights in evaluating the elements of art. Also of interest are preliminary sketches and thumbnails that illuminate how he took a vast vista and transformed it into a work of art.
A wordsmith himself, Hurley’s commentary accompanies two portfolios comprising 78 paintings. From his Prix de West winner “Los Alamos Country” to World War I Bristol F-2 fighter aircraft, the clipper ship Sea Witch, and a Mariner 4 Mars flyby, he shares historical details, insights, and his affection for places nearby and faraway.
At the core of Hurley’s passion was his belief that he lived in a new age of discovery: “Where I’m luckier [than my predecessors] is that I live during a time when our view of the world has a much greater perspective. We’ve seen it from outside the world. We’ve had views that are so vast and breathtaking that they couldn’t even imagine them. I feel as if I have lived through an age of discovery much like the people did in the Renaissance when they discovered the New World.”
From beginning to end, this book celebrates nature and the human craving to learn more about our place in the universe. As noted in the foreword by Peter Hassrick, director emeritus of the Buffalo Bill Center for the West, “Wilson Hurley lived and looked and loved larger than life…. His heart tugged the whole of his ample being into a world of inextricable union between man and nature – one that demanded the full embrace of his physical, spiritual, and creative self and defined him as a man and an artist. His were not solemn meditations on a Thoreau-sized forest pond but rather boisterous proclamations of vast scale considering the dynamics of Earth’s most spectacular marvels.”
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