In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Abilene Museum of Fine Arts in 1937, The Grace Museum is exhibiting artwork from the permanent collection dating from the first painting purchased by Friends of Art in 1939 to the most recent acquisitions. The circumstances involved in exactly how each work of art came into the collection can be as interesting as the work itself.
San Angelo Courthouse painted in 1929 by Peter Hurd was donated to the museum in 1992 by Marge Williams. Peter Hurd (1904-1984) was an important American painter, watercolorist, muralist and printmaker. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art with N. C. Wyeth and worked much of his life in New Mexico.
In 1929 he married Wyeth’s daughter Henriette and painted this painting of the newly dedicated Neoclassical Revival style courthouse in San Angelo. In 1941 the Abilene Fine Arts Museum presented an exhibition of Hurd’s recent paintings from the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City. Research in the museum acquisition files reveals that Dempsey MacMurphy of Abilene met Peter Hurd in Roswell, New Mexico when MacMurphy, a member of the Abilene Polo team played polo against Hurd’s team the New Mexico Military Institute. MacMurphy was a member of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce located in Abilene and commissioned Hurd to paint the San Angelo Courthouse as a symbol of pride and progress in West Texas. The painting stayed in the MacMurphy family for 65 years until it was donated to The Grace Museum. As a result, those familiar with Peter Hurd’s art may not be aware of this important example of the artist’s early work. While preparing the painting for this exhibition Hurd’s original frame was discovered under an ornate gold frame that was added 1990. The painting you will see in the exhibition is in excellent condition and appears as it did when it was originally commissioned.
This and many other Grace Museum art treasures are on view in the exhibition The Lasting Legacy of the Abilene Fine Arts Museum: 75 years of collecting art for the citizens of Abilene February – May 4 and Works on Paper from the Permanent Collection April 25 – August 25. The West Texas Club Woman: 1880 – 1950 April 26 – December 15 in the history gallery will focus on the cultural and educational contributions of woman’s clubs to the development of the arts in Abilene. Contemporary photography exhibition, Nancy Newberry, MUM is on view through May 4th in the Wright Photography Gallery.