The University of New Mexico Foundation (UNMF) has announced receipt of a $2.5 million gift from Rosalyn Roembke Hurley. The gift establishes the Wilson Hurley Collection Endowment and will benefit the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences (CULLS) and the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections (CSWR).
The Wilson Hurley Collection Endowment will support the acquisition, processing, and digitization of 40 years of paintings and fine-art studies of Rosalyn’s late husband Wilson Hurley (1924-2008), a prolific painter whose work focused on landscapes of the American West, seascapes, aviation, and outer space. The records encompassed by this endowment represent over 40 years of Hurley’s study and paintings.
The endowment will also support the creation of a website portal of Hurley’s work that anyone can explore, pay for a UNM graduate fellow to help process the collection and work on related projects, and create a Visiting Scholars Program. This competitive program will allow selected scholars worldwide to study Wilson’s work at UNM. The visiting scholars will write and present a paper describing their research at a conference.
“We express our profound gratitude for the extraordinary contribution from Rosalyn Hurley and the late artist Wilson Hurley,” says Dean Leo Lo, College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences. “With this generous support, we will be able to enhance accessibility to Wilson Hurley’s artistic legacy for generations to come. We are dedicated to managing this invaluable gift to advance the growth of CSWR and the college.”
Wilson Hurley was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His family moved to New Mexico when he was a boy. Hurley attended Los Alamos Ranch School, where he became interested in painting. He worked and studied with artists such as Jozef Bakos, John Young-Hunter, and Theodore Van Soelen.
Hurley graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in World War II. He left the service in 1949 to study law. He graduated from George Washington University Law School and began law practice in New Mexico while continuing to learn art and paint. He continued his military commitment as a New Mexico Air National Guard member and left law to pursue his passion for art. In 1968, he was recalled to active duty and served in Vietnam. He piloted as a forward air controller, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1969. After returning home from Vietnam, Hurley created 30 paintings based on his experience there.
Hurley became a National Academy of Western Art member at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1972. In 1991, he was asked to paint five murals for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. He finished the mural series called Window to the West in 1996.
During his 40 years of painting, Hurley completed about 1,300 works. He received many awards and medals for his art and is represented in museums and galleries nationwide. His work can be viewed at https://www.wilson-hurley.com/.
“We are honored that Rosalyn Hurley has entrusted UNM’s College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences with the legacy of her late husband, Wilson Hurley, whose life and work spans four decades of remarkable landscapes, seascapes, portraits, and still life paintings,” says UNM President Dr. Garnett S. Stokes. “It is our privilege to put her donation to good use as we acquire, care for, and curate Hurley’s art. The entire Lobo community is grateful for Rosalyn Hurley’s generosity and even prouder to provide a good home for Wilson Hurley’s work.”
Rosalyn began keeping records of Wilson’s paintings in 1969. She created a card file with the title, date, dimensions, date of sale, buyer, and other essential information for each photograph. Her motivation for making this gift to UNM was the safe preservation of those records and to bring her late husband’s impressive catalog of works to a broader audience.
“I spent much of my life compiling the records for Wilson’s paintings,” she says. “I didn’t want them to be lost. Wilson’s paintings were his legacy. He was a devoted painter who loved his work and showed people what he thought was beautiful. He felt fortunate that he was successful enough to continue to paint.”