During this 30th anniversary year of the James A. Michener Art Museum, the Doylestown cultural institution presents a major exhibition on the marriage and careers of Henriette Wyeth (daughter of N.C.), and her husband, Peter Hurd.

Wyeth, who passed away in 1997, isn’t talked about as much as her younger brother, Andrew, when it comes to 20th century American art. But that all changes with “Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective,” which is on display through May 6.

“Her father credited her for pushing his art in directions he never anticipated,” said Kirsten Jensen, the Michener Museum’s Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest chief curator.

The exhibit greets you with a Henriette Wyeth portrait of N.C. Wyeth in front of his painting “Island Funeral,” and another she did of Peter Hurd sitting in front of a tempera landscape he did of the Hondo Valley near Roswell, NM, where he was from. They flank a self-portrait of Wyeth, circa 1937-1938, holding a bouquet of Pennsylvania flowers that seems to say, in Jensen’s words: “Anything you can do, I can do better.”

Wyeth received her first commission at age 15, and was studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at 16. According to Jensen, she was initially accepted at PAFA when she was 15, until it was discovered that she had lied about her age by saying she was 16 years old.

Besides her talent as a portraitist, Wyeth also earned critical recognition for luminous, hazy and imaginative large-scale canvases. Check out the odyssey behind the restoration of the thought-to-be-lost “The Picnic,” a mural that used to hang prominently in the Wyeth family home. “Magical & Real” also demonstrates the dark tone that Wyeth’s fantasy paintings took, with “Death and the Child,” “Farewell to Youth” and “The Witch.”

Jensen collaborated with the Roswell Museum and Art Center to compile “Magical & Real,” which offers more than 100 works by the couple, along with related paintings by Andrew and N.C. Wyeth. The exhibit’s text also gets into the complex relationship between N.C. Wyeth and Peter Hurd. “When Peter Hurd came on the scene, that upset the apple cart a bit,” said Jensen.

Familiar with the Northeast from visits to relatives in Boston, Hurd began studying under N.C. Wyeth in 1924, and not only became his son-in-law, but also introduced the Wyeth clan to egg tempera (and supplied their paint pigments), which became Andrew Wyeth’s medium of choice.

Hurd painted a number of Pennsylvania landscapes, but he’s most associated with dramatically lit Southwestern vistas and stark rolling hills. His skill also shines in images that he painted as a correspondent for “Life” magazine covering the Army Air Division during World War II.

Hurd and Wyeth married in 1929, and for a few years they lived in Chadds Ford. Concluding that his artistic voice was in New Mexico, Hurd moved back there in 1933 for a commission at the New Mexico Military Institute. It took till 1940 for Wyeth to move west permanently to be with her husband. One sticking point was Wyeth’s insistence that she have a studio space of her own, which Hurd paid for with the sale of his portrait of a ranch hand, “El Mocho.” The 1936 painting is included in “Magical & Real,” on loan from the Chicago Institute of Art. “It’s really a very energy-filled portrait,” commented Sara Woodbury, Roswell Museum and Art Center’s curator of collections and exhibitions.

There’s also a portrait of President Lyndon Johnson, attributed jointly to Hurd and Wyeth. According to Jensen, Hurd was commissioned to do a Johnson portrait for the White House, but LBJ rejected it. This angered Wyeth, Jensen explained, because Johnson owned some of Hurd’s paintings, and presumably approved of the 1964 portrait Hurd did of him for a “Time” magazine cover. “Henriette slammed her cane on the desk of LBJ and said: ‘You wouldn’t know a good painting if you saw one’,” Jensen said.

As they raised three children, Wyeth and Hurd “were active in the Southwest arts scene and continued to exhibit widely,” said Woodbury. “Many of our visitors (in Roswell) feel a personal connection with them.” In exchange for lending works for “Magical & Real,” the Roswell Museum and Art Center is exhibiting 20 Pennsylvania impressionist paintings from the Michener’s collection.

“I was captivated by (Henriette Wyeth’s) ‘Irises’ and ‘The Music Box.’ The jewel box paintings are just marvelous,” said the Michener Museum’s interim director and CEO, Barbara Donnelly Bentivoglio, a former member of the museum’s board of trustees.

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