For most general readers, the book achieves the purpose for which it
North Texas State University JIM B. PEARSON
My Land Is the Southwest: Peter Hurd Letters and Journals. Edited
by Robert Metzger. Introduction by Paul Horgan. (College Sta-
tion, Tex.: Texas A&M University Press, 1983. Pp. xxxii+4o8.
Editor's preface, introduction, chronology, index, photographs.
Peter Hurd was born in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1904. He entered
West Point in 1921 but never liked the curriculum or the prospect of
soldiering. In 1923 he transferred to Haverford College in Pennsyl-
vania, met the famous illustrator N. C. Wyeth, and then studied with
him and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He married Henri-
ette Wyeth in 1929 and set out to depict the southwestern landscape
and its human scene. Henriette did not at first like New Mexico and
they lived apart a good deal of the time. His lengthy letters to her are
valuable explanations of his development as a painter and person.
Hurd made a living during the 1930s as a Works Progress Adminis-
tration (WPA) muralist but also sold paintings and lithographs of his
beloved Southwest. In 1942 and 1944 he was a war correspondent and
illustrator for Life and spent a good deal of time with the Air Trans-
port Command in various theaters of the war studying its planes and
their crews and their duties. He returned to Sentinel Ranch, which he
had built in San Patricio, New Mexico, after the war and proceeded
on to fame as a painter of the region.
Hurd profited from formal training; yet he retained the manner of
the self-taught and stubbornly worked to find an individual style out-
side of trends and schools. The illustrative technique of N. C. Wyeth,
and the earlier master illustrator Howard Pyle, influenced him. One
of his most interesting letters, written to his father-in-law in 1939,
analyzes the virtues of book illustrations and story-telling pictures
(pp. 214-215). Hurd thought that this style was strongly symbolic of
human aspirations, linked past to present, and emphasized mass and
arrested motion. He never liked nonobjective painting, and was al-
ways suspicious of new trends from European or East Coast studios.
In due course he expressed a powerful vision of land and people in
a distinctive way. He opted for condensation rather than abstraction,
emphasizing the outlines and planes of masses. He had a potent sense
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/. Accessed July 26, 2014.