We received sad news this week that our friend, New Mexico artist Peter Rogers, who in 1964 painted the mural titled “Texas Moves Toward Statehood” in the lobby of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building, died on May 28.
Peter Rogers returned to TSLAC 50 years later in the summer of 2014 to revisit his mural, to meet current staff, and to recount the history of painting the mural. He dispelled a number of colorful stories about the mural while relating others that we had not heard before. Over the course of a day of meetings with staff, an oral history interview, and a public lecture on July 31, 2014, Peter Rogers left a personal impression as indelible and eloquent as the painting he left on the lobby wall in 1964.
Peter Rogers was born in England in 1933. In 1963 he met his wife, Carol Hurd, in Spain. Carol is the daughter of well-known American artist Peter Hurd who was married to the daughter of another great American artist, N.C. Wyeth. Peter Hurd had received a commission from the State of Texas to paint the mural in our lobby, but he passed the commission on to his new son-in-law in 1963. Relying on a standard Texas history book — Lon Tinkle’s 13 Days to Glory — and working at the kitchen table of his parents’ home in Sussex, England, Peter Rogers created a sweeping and dramatic panorama of Texas history from the days of the conquistadors to the 20th century.
While visiting with TSLAC staff, Peter dispelled some myths such as that the eyes of Sam Houston are painted so as to follow you as you walk through the lobby, or that he had painted his wife (the pioneer woman with the baby) and himself (the fallen Alamo defender) into the mural. All false, said Peter, and mostly the product of the “fertile imagination” of one Mrs. Golden who presided over the lobby in the building’s early years.
Peter also related a particularly vivid story that did in fact happen. Having intentionally left Mirabeau B. Lamar out of the mural, he found himself besieged by the Daughters of the
Republic of Texas, one of whom appeared at the foot of his scaffold and pleaded tearfully to restore Lamar to his rightful place beside Anson Jones, third of the presidents of the Republic. “How could I not put him in,” said the artist and Lamar was eventually included.
Much of Peter Rogers’ later artwork was quite different from the mural, but it is the mural for which we and many Texans will remember him. To have Peter visit us and tell the story of the mural was to have a nearly mythological figure appear in our midst. He was a unique, fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyable gentleman. We will cherish our meeting with him and the part of him that will permanently remain central to the experience of all who work in or visit our building.
The obituary of Peter Rogers in the Santa Fe New Mexican: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/english-painter-became-part-of-new-mexico-tradition/article_da238d1f-fa24-5f15-a793-7d37236a9ff6.html