Eldridge Hardie: Art of a Life in Sport
October 23, 2016 – March 5, 2017
Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery

Eldridge Hardie (American, b. 1940)
In Rough Country, 2001
Oil on canvas
El Paso Museum of Art Foundation

On Sunday, October 23, 2016, the El Paso Museum of Art will inaugurate its first exhibition of the acclaimed artist of sporting art, Eldridge Hardie. Hardie has been painting the outdoors sportsman lifestyle, in which he has been an active participant, for over fifty years. This exhibition includes over twenty oil on canvas and watercolor paintings as well as drawings selected from the artist’s long career.

Hardie is a Texas-born artist who grew up hunting and fishing in the El Paso area. As a young man, Hardie moved to Saint Louis to study painting at the Washington University School of Fine Art and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1964. After college Hardie met Tom Lea, who arranged several portrait commissions. Since 1966 Hardie has lived and worked in Denver, CO. Hardie has exhibited at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Gilcrease Museum, the C. M. Russell Museum, and the American Museum of Flyfishing. Hardie’s 2001 painting In Rough Country won the Texas Quail Stamp Award in 2002.

Hardie’s paintings, therefore, often exude the fresh air, bright sunlight, and whistling wind that anyone who has spent time outdoors pursuing wildlife knows. Hardie paints en plein air (outdoors) and indoors in a style inspired by Impressionism and also celebrating the beauty of nature and its inhabitants. For example, the painting Fish Creek Afternoon, 2007—which is the highlight of the exhibition—depicts an angler in a stream awaiting the precise instant and location to place his fly, but that is not all. The painting also portrays a moment in which the world is in balance, a moment when fish are not scarce, and a moment when the creek flows peacefully and the surrounding trees wave in the wind on the pristine mountainous landscape as they have for centuries. 

Hardie’s subjects include the fish and fowl pursued as well as the humans, animals, decoys, and highly refined gear involved. To depict his subjects with authenticity, however, Hardie researches the creatures he depicts, as well as the local weather, vegetation, and geology. This may include noting the quality of light present at a specific time on a certain fall day, or observing the clarity or speed of moving water. Hardie’s understanding of and involvement with all aspects of sporting life enable him to focus on key moments of the varied experiences he reveals. When asked about the importance of understanding the sport to his painting practice Hardie comments, “I like to kid about it, but in truth, I couldn’t paint what I paint with authority or passion if it weren’t for my life in sport. That it is fun, well, I just can’t help that.”

To return to the major painting Fish Creek Afternoon, this picture was commissioned from the artist in 2006 by the EPMA Foundation, and represents none other than a longstanding major patron of the Museum—Sam Moore, Jr. EPMA is very grateful to Sam Moore and other faithful patrons—Kirk and Judy Robison, Darren and Maria M. Woody, Jackson V. and Donna A. Curlin—for the recent donations they have offered for the realization of this exhibition in El Paso.

The Archangels Michael and Raphael
Through May 14, 2017
Dorrance and Olga Roderick Gallery

Saint Michael, Archangel (early 19th C)
Oil on tin, 14 x 10
Gift of Dr. Steven McKnight in honor of Frank and Sara

This particular exhibition focuses on the archangels with the highest popularity in 19th-century Mexican retablo art, Michael and Raphael. Their popularity rose from the merging of Pre-Columbian messenger deities with Catholic figures to ease the shift to a new religion. Saint Michael is considered to be the prince and captain general of Heaven’s angels. According to Christian teaching he was the one to combat Satan, the one to call men into their heavenly judgment and to lead the faithful to heaven after their death, and the champion of all Christians and the Church. Saint Michael’s depiction in retablos was inspired by the description of him leading his angels into battle against a dragon found in the Book of Revelation (12:7–9). He is portrayed as a young and beautiful winged entity often wearing armor consisting of mail and a helmet. He is shown either holding scales or a flaming sword, or sometimes both, while he subdues a demon under his feet. On the other hand Saint Raphael is depicted as a pilgrim or a guardian angel to allude to his description throughout the Book of Tobit. He appears holding a traveler’s staff, a gourd, and the fish that was used to heal Tobias’s father’s blindness, and sometimes he is shown wearing armor. He is depicted as a beautiful young man wearing a diadem with a cross in the middle and a red feather, but can sometimes have a boyish appearance. The exhibition does include a retablo that shows St. Raphael with Tobias (2007.6.2), a very rare occurrence in the depiction of the archangel.