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Abstract Expressionism, the dominant art style in mid-century America, had many practitioners and each one had a particular perspective. In addition to abstraction, another key quality of the movement was gesture, and these were sometimes heavy and broad, sometimes dripped, and sometimes delicate. Frank H. Hursh, Jr.’s approach initially was toward the calligraphic, with thin lines in muted colors intertwining one another. More recently he has developed a bright and intense palette that extends across the picture plane.

Hursh was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he graduated from high school and, beginning in 1946, attended the local Hardin Junior College (now Midwestern State University). During the academic year 1949–1950 he was at Black Mountain College in western North Carolina, where he and Ruth Asawa were both pupils under Dr. Max Dehn, a noted mathematician who, like Josef Albers, had emigrated from Germany. Among Hursh’s other instructors at BMC were Joseph Fiore for painting and Pete Jennerjahn for color theory; both teachers had participated with Josef Albers and his teaching of color theory and design. The influence of Fiore, in particular, is visible in Hursh’s work from that time; he has credited his experience at Black Mountain College as pivotal for his career. Afterward he returned to his home state and in 1953 earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He studied mural design with Seymour Fogel, a protégé of Diego Rivera, while working as an assistant in the graphics studio. He also worked collaboratively with the architecture students, creating murals for the designs they presented.

Anticipating he would be drafted during the Korean War, Hursh enlisted in the United States Navy and worked in the Training Aids Branch. Upon discharge, he used the GI Bill and a scholarship from his alma mater to study mural painting at La Academia de San Carlos (now Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Méxicos) and the Mexico City College (now Universidad de las Américas). Here he also established his own business for freelance commercial art work and set designs for television production: Artes Teatrales, which led to his employment with Telepelículas where he worked on television productions and advertising. He left school to work full time, and eventually was hired by Gamma Productions, one of the first animation studios in Mexico City. Serving as the Director of the Background Department, he was involved in such productions as Fractured Fairytales and Rocky and His Friends (commonly later referred to as Rocky and Bullwinkle). His aptitude and interest for this kind of work may date to his childhood when he accompanied his father who was the stage manager for the local municipal auditorium, witnessing the transition from vaudeville to talking movies.

Remaining in Mexico, Hursh began teaching courses in animation at the Academia de San Carlos and also designed three of the galleries at the new National Museum of Anthropology. In 1964 he returned to Texas and worked as a technical illustrator at the Sheppard Air Force, winning a promotion as a medical illustrator for the School of Health Care Sciences department of the United States Air Force. After fifteen years, he resettled in Mexico and took a position at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. He conducted classes in painting and drawing and worked with graduate students until the institute closed in 1986. He was given the opportunity to inaugurate an arts program for a new campus of the Universidad del Valle de México in Querétaro, and by the time of his retirement in 1998 there were more than forty-eight programs in fine arts, performing arts, music, literature, and design.

Throughout his long and varied career Hursh has enthusiastically stayed true to the abstract expressionist aesthetic. “Regarding my artwork, I never liked to jump on any bandwagons. The most valuable thing I learned at BMC was to be myself, holding true to who I really am… the most important value for artists is to be honest with themselves and their efforts before the finished work is put out into the world. The painting is an end in itself: it has its own essence….