Wilson worked with many galleries, but only significant gallery relationships are listed, including major solo, two-person, and group exhibitions.
1924 Born Wilson Hurley on April 11, Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Ruth Elizabeth (Wilson) Hurley (Rhode Island, 1895-1984) and Patrick J. Hurley (Choctaw Nation, 1882-1963). He’s given no middle name. Has three siblings: Patricia (1921-2007), Ruth (1922-2004), and Mary Hope (1930-82)
1928 Family moves to Washington, DC, where Patrick Hurley serves as secretary of war under President Herbert Hoover, as a major general in World War II, and as personal ambassador and ambassador to China under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1930 Attends first grade in Washington, DC. Family moves to Leesburg, Virginia, where he attends public school through seventh grade.
1932 Spends first of many summers in New Mexico where he paints plein air with Jozef Bakos (1891-1977). Visits the Grand Canyon for the first time and takes a mule trip from the rim to the river.
1936 Enrolls at Los Alamos Ranch School, New Mexico, repeating parts of sixth grade.
1937 Apprentices in the summer with Taos painter John Young-Hunter (1874-1955).
1939 Trains during summer as a glider pilot in Elmira, New York, including flying with champion pilot/historian Peter Riedel (1905-98).
1940 Works summer as a mail carrier at Consolidated Aircraft, San Diego, California.
1942 Graduates from Los Alamos Ranch School. Begins plebe year at United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, and adopts the middle name, Patrick, which becomes a nickname.
1943 Begins aviation branch training at West Point. Serves on the staff of West Point’s The Pointer, doing illustrations.
1945 Graduates from West Point with a BS in engineering and as a second lieutenant with pilot wings in the US Army Air Forces. Begins thirty-month tour in the Philippines and South Pacific.
1947 Paints earliest surviving work in oil, Thunderhead on the Halmaheras, Maluku Islands, Indonesia.
1948 Returns and finishes military obligation in Shreveport, Louisiana. Resigns from active duty in United States Air Force.
1949 Enters The George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC, in the fall.
1951 Graduates with a JD, admitted to the Washington, DC, bar, and clerks for Judge David A. Pine in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. Marries Norma Frost (born 1932)
1952 Son Patrick born. Moves to Santa Fe, New Mexico, admitted to New Mexico Bar, and begins private law practice with one client, his father.
1952-64 Becomes serious “Sunday painter,” working with Theodore van Soelen (1890-1964) for critiques and makes gifts of paintings to friends.
1953 Moves to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and continues private law practice. Son Norman born.
1954 Joins Simms Modrall Sperling Roehl & Harris law firm as an associate. Begins flying with 188th Tactical Fighter Squadron, New Mexico Air National Guard (NMANG).
1955 Son Wilson born.
1957 Daughter Mary born
1958 Leaves the law firm and joins Sandia Corporation, Albuquerque, as an engineer. Son Robert born.
1960 Resigns from Sandia Corporation. Resumes writing and illustrating The Chinese Widow, a novel begun in 1947 and inspired by flying in the South Pacific after World War II (published by booksurge.com, 2007). Begins painting in earnest while unemployed, including a trompe l’oeil mural in his Albuquerque home. Business association with his father is terminated.
1961 Returns to private law practice. Charters Citizens State Bank, Albuquerque, where he serves as chairman of the board and general counsel. Leanin’ Tree reproduces one of his paintings on a greeting card.
1962 Commissioned to create ten large paintings for the walls of Furr’s Cafeteria, Santa Fe.
1963 Father Patrick J. Hurley dies.
1964 Divorced by Norma, who returns to Washington, DC, with their five children. Begins closing down his law practice to devote himself to painting. Receives advice from Peter Hurd (1904-84) to study independently and with mentors.
1965 Consigns work to Baker Collector Gallery, Lubbock, Texas, through the help of John Liggett Meigs (1916-2003) and shows with the gallery to 1979.
1966 Relinquishes NMANG flying status in December.
1968 Begins dating Rosalyn (Roz) Roembke (born 1935) in January. Recalled to NMANG active duty in January. Detaches from guard and deploys as USAF air liaison officer and forward air controller in the central highlands of Vietnam with the Republic of Korea Capital Division in Two Corps.
1969 Attains USAF rank of lieutenant colonel in Vietnam and receives the Distinguished Flying Cross. Returns to Albuquerque with NMANG on May 20. Marries Roz on May 22 and resumes painting in their Albuquerque apartment. Transfers to US Air Force Reserves to complete military obligation toward retirement. Exhibits new work at Baker Collector Gallery in October, including several Vietnam paintings. Consigns work to Collector Gallery, Waco, and Jamison Galleries, Santa Fe, as well as Baker.
1970 Moves to new home with designated studio in northeast Albuquerque in July. Roz leaves her job at the University of New Mexico to support Wilson’s career.
1971 Baker Collector Gallery arranges for a one-man exhibit at the Panhandle Plains Museum, Canyon, Texas. Discontinues including date of completion on the face of paintings.
1972 Spends a week on a houseboat sketching Lake Powell, above Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona.
1973 Exhibits at the first invitational show at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which is renamed National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (NCWHM) in 2000. Exhibits annually through 1993. Formation of the National Academy of Western Art (NAWA), for which he becomes a member of the executive committee. Receives NAWA silver medal in oils for Grand Canyon, First Light. Begins painting plein air with Santa Fe artist Robert Lougheed (1901-82). Franklin Mint publishes a photo-offset print of O’ Beautiful for Spacious Skies honoring the 1976 US Bicentennial.
1974 Travels the route and paints ten paintings to illustrate Without Noise of Arms by Walter Briggs (Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1976) commemorating the 1776 Dominguez/Escalante expedition to find a northern route from New Mexico to the Pacific.
1975 Rafts the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in August. Begins long-term relationship with Albuquerque framer Robert la Plante (1925-2016).
1976 Exhibits twelve Grand Canyon subjects in a one-man show at the Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff. Painting trips to California and Indonesia. Agrees to produce a one-man exhibition at the NCWHM the following year.
1977 Receives NAWA gold medal for oils for Winter Sunset, de Chelly. Undergoes surgery for neurofibroma at the base of his brain in September. Exhibits thirty-five paintings in a December one-man show with a book (Kansas City: Lowell Press, 1977) at the NCWHM and receives the museum’s Trustees Medal.
1978 Pain persists from surgery. Receives NAWA gold medal for oils for Moran Point, Grand Canyon. Judges the Cowboy Artists of America annual October exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona, and again in 1979. Paints at Zion and Grand Canyon. Begins association with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) art program that results in eleven paintings (1978-90). Completes seven additional Vietnam subjects and lends the collection to USAF Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio (gives collection to museum in 1999).
1979 Consigns majority of paintings to Taggart Galleries, Las Vegas, Nevada, with the exception of participation in invitational group shows. Begins association with Forum del Sol, which makes photo-offset prints of several paintings. Works with Ken Meyer Productions to film first episode of documentary series Profiles in American Art, accompanied by a book compiled by Claudia Meyer: Profiles in American Art: Wilson Hurley (Boulder, CO: Ken Meyer Productions, 1979). Film airs on PBS in 1983.
1980 Exhibits in a two-man show with sculptor Ed Fraughton (born 1929), Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City. Receives NAWA silver medal in oils for Bathed in a Fiery Sunset. Joins the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA) and participates in annual seminars. Visits NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California, for material to paint the Pioneer/Saturn encounter of September 2, 1979. Joins planning committee for first annual Artists of America exhibition sponsored by the Rotary Club of Denver and held at the Colorado History Museum, Denver.
1981 Begins planning a new home in foothills of the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque. Travels to Florida for NASA’s launch of Space Shuttle Columbia. Participates in group show at Nita Stewart Haley Museum, Midland, Texas. Exhibits in the first Artists of America and continues to 1992, picking up again in 1997 to the final show in 2000. Judges the Northwest Rendezvous Group annual exhibition, Helena, Montana.
1982 Named Artist of the Year by the Tucson Festival Society, which issues a poster of New Mexico in Late Summer. Undergoes second spinal surgery and placed in halo brace, leaving him unable to paint from March through August. Breaks left shoulder in an automobile accident in August. Moves into new home in November.
1983 Exhibits thirteen retrospective paintings and thirty-three new works, including twelve field studies, at the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma, accompanied by a catalog published in The Gilcrease Magazine of American History and Art 5, no 2, April 1983. Consigns work to Fenn Galleries, Santa Fe, which becomes Nedra Matteucci Galleries in 1988, in addition to Taggart Galleries. The Ridgerunner, OA-10A South China Sea used as cover for The Sky Beyond by Sir Gordon Taylor (New York: Bantam Books, 1983).
1984 Receives NAWA gold medal for oils and Prix de West purchase award for Los Alamos Country. Travels to Columbus, Georgia, to do a series of paintings along the Chattahoochee River for WC Bradley Co. Presents “How to Make a Fool of Yourself in Public and Live with It” to Creativity in Science, A Symposium, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico. Travels to Crater Lake, Oregon, for a commission.
1985 Exhibits fifty-one paintings in a retrospective prepared jointly and exhibited first at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, followed by the Albuquerque Museum, accompanied by a catalog (Kansas City: Lowell Press, 1985) with an essay by James T. Forrest. Teaches weeklong workshop at Scottsdale Artists’ School, Arizona, and again in 1987. Exhibits in shows sponsored by the Rotary Club of Amarillo, Texas, and New Mexico Tapestry, Albuquerque Museum.
1986 Exhibits ten paintings and participates in a symposium on art in the West at the Rockwell Museum, Corning, New York. Travels to Niagara Falls, doing field studies that result in Niagara Falls in the Mist and American Falls. Takes Jon Zahourek’s human anatomy workshop (with Roz), Lubbock, Texas, and in 1987 his face/head workshop in Concord, Massachusetts.
1987 Passing Time, Eternal Beauty acquired by the Autry Museum, Los Angeles, California. Lectures on art and perception at the University of Hawaii Creativity Conference, Oahu, and does field studies on Maui. Commissioned to paint The Webb Ranch, Gray County, Texas in memory of Charlie Webb for MK Brown Civic Auditorium, Pampa, Texas. Judges with two others the inaugural Arts for the Parks sale/exhibition, Jackson, Wyoming, co-sponsored by the National Park Academy of the Arts and National Park Foundation.
1988 Exhibits fifty paintings, forty-four of which are field studies, in a one-man show at Altermann & Morris Galleries, Dallas, Texas. Commissioned to paint first major triptych, Summer Skies, Oklahoma for the Midwest City Library, Oklahoma. Commissioned to paint Sunset at La Cueva, West and Sunset at La Cueva, East for the City of Albuquerque Sunport.
1989 Travels to Utah to paint NASA’s solid rocket booster test site for NASA, joined by Ed Fraughton. Travels to Italy to paint studies and collect information for a commission titled Volterra. Exhibits in two-person show with sculptor Glenna Goodacre (born 1939) at Nedra Matteucci Galleries. Commissioned to paint Taos Mountain at Autumnal Equinox for entry of Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado. Presents “Creativity and Courage” address to Sandia Corporation, Albuquerque. Receives honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of New England, Biddeford, Maine.
1990 Travels to Florida for nighttime shuttle launch, which NASA scrubs; paints Standing Down for Christmas. Presents “Creativity and Chaos” at the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture, Los Alamos.
1991 Exhibits twenty-three paintings in a retrospective at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, and receives the museum’s Award for Excellence in Western Art. Agrees to paint a series of triptychs to be called Windows to the West for the NCWHM Sam Noble Special Events Center. October Suite, Grand Canyon triptych acquired by Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Travels to France to research large paintings, including materials, mechanics of installation, and viewer impact. Finishes quarter-scale model for the first NCWHM triptych New Mexico Suite in November.
1992 Travels to Italy in the spring to research big paintings, their condition, compositions, etc. Completes full-scale New Mexico Suite: centerpiece May 1, left wing August 13, and right wing in October. Travels to California to do field studies for California Suite. Finishes quarter-scale model for California Suite in December.
1993 Completes full-scale California Suite: centerpiece March 15, right wing June 1, and left wing August 15. Travels to Grand Canyon in fall to paint field studies for Arizona Suite. Finishes quarter-scale model for Arizona Suite December 22.
1994 Completes full-scale Arizona Suite: centerpiece March 15, right wing June 1, and left wing August 13. Travels to Monument Valley to paint studies for Utah Suite. Finishes quarter-scale model for Utah Suite in October.
1995 Participates with Bettina Steinke (1913-99) in a NCWHM film by B. Byron Price. Completes full-scale Utah Suite May 1. Travels to Yellowstone in May to do studies for Wyoming Suite. Finishes quarter-scale model for Wyoming Suite August 16. Writes about and discusses the development of Windows to the West with NCWHM board members. Completes full-scale right wing of Wyoming Suite November 27. Elected to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
1996 Completes full-scale Wyoming Suite: left wing in March and centerpiece in August, finishing the Windows to the West series of five triptychs. Quarter-scale models acquired by the Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma, sponsor of the NCWHM Sam Noble Special Events Center.
1997 Participates in Artists of America after four years’ absence. Returns to his usual variety of subjects and sizes, including portraits of NMANG pilots in their airplane cockpits. Presents “Perspective and Visual Perception” to the American Society of Aviation Artists, Seattle, Washington.
1998 Travels to Hawaii to paint.
1999 Travels to New Hampshire to paint with Richard Whitney. Installs La Cueva Canyon, Sandias at Oneok, Inc., Tulsa. Presents eulogy for Bettina Steinke at Artists of America.
2000 Travels to paint in Arizona and at Natural Bridges, Utah. Revisits Vietnam subjects, including Moonshine near Thunderbolt, which is given to USAF Museum. Travels to Hawaii to paint.
2001 Elected to Tulsa Hall of Fame, Oklahoma. Commits to painting four works for the Oklahoma State Capitol rotunda, Oklahoma City. Travels to Oklahoma in spring and fall to paint studies and finishes two of the four Oklahoma paintings. Exhibits in a two-man show titled Western Perspectives with George Carlson at the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia. Paints a small portrait of his mother Ruth Wilson Hurley for her induction into Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Exhibits the 1997 portraits of NMANG pilots at Las Cruces Museum of Fine Art, New Mexico. Commissioned to paint portraits of Dean Frederick M. Hart, UNM Law School, and two paintings for the Bernalillo County Courthouse, Albuquerque. Participates in NCWHM Prix de West art show after seven years’ absence.
2002 Named Notable New Mexican by the Albuquerque Museum Foundation. Named Oklahoma Cultural Treasure by Oklahoma Arts Council. Finishes final two of four paintings for the Oklahoma State Capitol.
2003 Begins preparing work for a fall 2004 one-man show at the Nedra Matteucci Galleries.
2004 Undergoes radiation therapy for prostate cancer. Exhibits thirty-five paintings in a one-man show at Nedra Matteucci Galleries. Selected as Honored Artist at the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale, Cody, Wyoming.
2005 Guest of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, as Westheimer Distinguished Visiting Artist, presenting lectures on Windows to the West and advising students on art as a career. Exhibits fifty-one preliminary sketches, drawings, and quarter-scale models for Windows to the West in Wilson Hurley’s Campaign at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, accompanied by a catalog of the same title (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 2005). Paints final Vietnam subject, Close Support, Troops in Contact, given to USAF Museum along with Viper. Experiences health issues, including a slight slur in speech.
2006 Travels in spring to southern Oklahoma to paint studies for Noble Foundation commission The Red River from Coffey Ranch and returns in late summer to install it. Paints works inspired by oft-traveled route from Albuquerque to Oklahoma. Participates in the Quest for the West exhibition/sale, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Does first and only painting exclusively with palette knives (challenge from Roz).
2007 Participates in Prix de West exhibition and presents “Painting Big Paintings, the Mural Project” about Windows to the West. Travels to Colorado Springs for West Point class of ’45 pilots’ reunion. Revisits favorite painting subjects—places and scenes of special meaning. Experiences difficulty painting a 9-foot-tall canvas. Receives preliminary diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), which is confirmed in Denver in late December.
2008 Finishes last painting Autumn West of Budville January 3. Painting goals gradually become unrealistic. Selected as Featured Artist for the Santa Fe Wine and Chili Festival, which creates a poster. Dies of ALS at age eighty-four on August 29 and is buried at the National Cemetery, Santa Fe. Exhibit at Nedra Matteucci Galleries in October, including paintings by Rosalyn Roembke.
2012 NCWHM makes documentary film Wilson Hurley: Envisioning the West.
2013 Roz develops Wilson Hurley website (wilson-hurley.com) with Duane Chartier, including curriculum vitae, videos, and a catalogue raisonné and begins writing about his life and work.
2015 Edward Knight composes an orchestral suite inspired by Windows to the West, which has a world premiere by the Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra at the NCWHM.
2017 NCWHM establishes the Wilson Hurley Memorial Award for Outstanding Landscape at the annual Prix de West exhibition/sale.
2020 The Life and Art of Wilson Hurley: Celebrating the Richness of Reality by Rosalyn Roembke Hurley published by Fresco Books, Albuquerque.