The Western Wyeth
Only one of the famous family’s fourth generation paints, but he’s traded Eastern fields and streams for the open range.
(page 2 of 2)
De la Fuente estimates he’s sold several hundred of his own paintings, ranging from $500 to $25,000, since opening the gallery 25 years ago. In a video about his own work, de la Fuente relates a conversation with his Great Uncle Andy, who said the sky in a painting was too blue, too dark. When he argued that the sky in New Mexico really is that blue, Andrew reminded him that he was painting air.
Many of the paintings appear luminous. That’s due to the egg tempera technique that Peter Hurd taught to his father-in-law, N.C. Wyeth, and to his brother-in-law, Andrew Wyeth. De la Fuente still uses his grandfather’s mineral pigments. De la Fuente sent one painting, “Afternoon at Llaves,” to Qoro, LLC in New Castle to be reproduced. “They are the only ones who can capture the luminosity,” he says, unlike giclée prints, which will last for centuries.
Though he grew up surrounded by people talking about painting, de la Fuente says everyone in the family was encouraged to find their own way of working. “That’s why there’s a diversity of styles and mediums in my family, because everyone explored their own thing,” he says. “I consider myself a chronicler. I work from life, but I’m not trying to do a photograph. I may edit out houses or put an ant hill in the foreground.” He quips, “I can move mountains.”
His uncle Michael Hurd agrees. While it can be intimidating to be “in the wake of that great Wyeth ship,” he says, artists must see the world on their own. Hurd even prefers watercolors and oils to father Peter Hurd’s egg tempera.
Now 62, the same age as his cousin Jamie Wyeth, Hurd says saving the ranch, which he calls his parents’ legacy, was always a priority. Not only does he run the Hurd-La Rinconada Gallery on the property, he rents five guest houses that overlook the Ruidoso and the polo field.
Yup. A Brandywine Valley polo field in the Ruidoso Watershed. Peter Hurd used to play all the time with literati and glitterati back in the day. Michael was an avid player, too, and still has a pony he describes as “old enough to vote twice.”
“My father told me I had a practical mind and should stay out of the arts, but my mother told me I had a sensitive side,” says Peter Hurd, a Stanford University graduate who spent two years working in Chicago before buying a one-way ticket home. “I’m not a city person,” he says. “I’m a New Mexico coyote.”
After he started joining his father in the afternoons to paint, he decided to study painting and drawing at New Mexico State University. He often showed his work to his mother, Henriette, but if she waited more than 15 seconds to comment, he knew there was a problem. “Oh, that poor girl. Is her left arm really six inches longer than her right?” he recalls her asking with a smile. These days, his oil paintings fetch as much as $30,000.
“I love the Brandywine River Museum, but it’s OK to be out here,” Hurd says. He’ll go with the flow.