Venezuelan painter, Luchita Hurtado passed away on Thursday night at her Santa Monica, California home at age 99 from natural causes. The artist’s gallery, Hauser & Wirth confirmed Hurtado’s death on Friday, according to The New York Times.
Hurtado’s story was an interesting one. She was born in November 1920 in Maiquetía, Venezuela, and emigrated to New York City at 8-years-old. In New York, young Hurtado lived with her mother, her sister, and two aunts.
Hurtado went on to study fine art at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan. After graduation, Hurtado met and married her first husband, Daniel del Solar at 18-years-old. She eventually had children with Solar but he deserted the family when the second baby came along. As a single mother, Hurtado worked as a window dresser for a Lord & Taylor store and as a freelance fashion illustrator for Condé Nast, according to The New York Times. But she never gave up on her art and continued studying her craft and rubbing elbows with fellow painters and photographers.
For more than 80 years, the Venezuelan native’s career consisted of extraordinary paintings, drawings, photographs. Her work covered Surrealism, Mexican muralism, environmentalism, and even feminism, according to Artnet news. Unfortunately, Hurtado’s brilliant work didn’t get the recognition it deserved until the artist’s later years in life.
For most of Hurtado’s adulthood, she immersed herself in the art scenes of New York City, Mexico City, and Los Angeles. Hurtado’s circle of artist friends included Frida Kahlo, Isamu Noguchi, and Agnes Martin. Hurtado moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and married her third husband, Lee Mullican, who was a painter and art teacher and had two sons with him. She would work on her own art at night when everyone was asleep. At this time in her life, Hurtado created art inspired by tribal and pre-Columbian themes, according to USA Today.
Hurtado’s unique art was rarely exhibited until the 1970s. But even then, her work was only shown sporadically in small venues. It wasn’t until she reached her 90s, was when the studio director of Mullican, discovered Hurtado’s exquisite art, according to The New York Times.
The paintings that the studio director uncovered were marked with the initials, L.H. When Hurtado was approached about these paintings, she explained to the director that the art was hers and she would initial the paintings with her maiden name.
From there, Hurtado’s work got widely recognized, often being shown at galleries, museums, and exhibits in Los Angeles and even London. In 2019, Hurtado was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential figures, according to Artnet News.
Hurtado was described as a vivacious woman with a joy for life. “I don’t think it’s going to be the end,” she said. “I think there are just borders in this existence. I think it goes on—I expect to fly, at some point,” Hurtado said in a 2018 interview with Artnet News referencing the topic of death.