Peter originally attended military school before he realized he loved painting and wanted to pursue it professionally. He attended the New Mexico Military academy in Roswell and was half way through West Point when he changed course to follow his true calling. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he became a private pupil of N. C. Wyeth. the famous illustrator and painter. Hurd worked alongside Wyeth’s own children, Andrew and Henriette, who were also studying under their father. Hurd worked as Wyeth's assistant at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for a number of years. In 1929, he married Henriette Wyeth. They would have three children, Peter, Carol, and Michael Hurd.
In the mid-30’s the Hurds moved to San Patricio, New Mexico, settling on 40 acres that would grow into the 2200 acre Sentinel Ranch. The ranch and its surrounds provided endless material for their work, as their painting careers developed side by side. Henriette focused on floral studies, oil portraits and still life paintings. Peter worked at capturing the landscape and the people who lived within it and brought it into being. His large egg tempera paintings of the local landscape earned him national recognition, and were published in Life magazine. Later, during WW2, Life magazine sent Peter Hurd all over the world as a combat correspondent with the US Air Force. He covered almost all the fronts of the far-flung battle line, creating hundreds of War Sketches that range from poignant to comic.
Hurd’s years with the Air Force had a profound effect on his artistic work. He had always been a careful and precise worker when he worked in tempera, but as an embedded war reporter documenting urgent or fleeting moments, he had to draw much more quickly. He also began using watercolor, which he soon mastered. When he returned to painting the New Mexico landscapes, his work was characterized by a new freedom and looseness, but still displaying all the subtle tones of an innately gifted colorist.
Some of Peter Hurd’s most well-known portraits were of his neighbors, family and friends at Sentinel Ranch. He loved to paint people who were deeply connected to the land, and always showed them outdoors, against the hills and sky. He wrote, “the ones I like best to paint are those whose lives are spend under the sky: Men whose clothing, skin and eyes are all conditioned by the wind”. His Portrait of Jose shows the foreman of Sentinel Ranch amid the ridges of the land he cared for. In what is perhaps Hurd’s hallmark work, Eve of St. John, Herrera’s daughter is bathed in the light of a candle she carries.
From 1953 to 1954, Hurd and his assistants painted a fresco mural in the rotunda of what was then the West Texas Museum (now Holden Hall) at Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in Lubbock. Hurd painted about one fresco per week over a two-year period, with depictions of pioneers and influential leaders of West Texas.
Hurd also painted the official portraits two heads of state, President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Saudi King Faisel. LBJ famously rejected the 1967 Hurd portrait, for reasons unknown. .The painting is now part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, in the Smithsonian Institution.
Many of his works, along with those of Henriette Wyeth, NC Wyeth, and Michael Hurd, can be seen at the Hurd- La Rinconada Gallery in San Patricio, New Mexico.
Many of Peter Hurd's works are set in southeastern New Mexico, on his family's ranch in San Patricio and in the Hondo Valley.
Some of Hurd's works include:The Eve of St. John
The Gate and Beyond
The Red Pickup
The Late Call
The Future Belongs To Those Who Prepare For It - originally located inside the now-demolished Prudential Building in Houston, Texas, but relocated to a new public library building in Artesia, NM.