Jackson M. Hensley
Hensley Gallery Located in Historic Taos, NM Specializing in Traditional Fine Art


Emotion and Light

Tradition, originality and integrity have been the cornerstone of Jackson's high standards in art. Ideology has kept him focused on the quality of his work. His own life and times are what he paints. Thoughts are put down in visual images, altering as life changes with each new day. Reflecting moments, a way of life, the very struggles that affect the work itself and the goodness of man and nature are his artistic statement; because of these qualities his art has become timeless and enduring. These Taos years were very good for Jackson; his self-isolation served him well in creating works of unsurpassed beauty and vitality.

In the year 2000 the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art purchased Jackson's epic painting entitled "The Prayer" for their permanent collection. The year 2000 also marked the second annual showing of the exhibition entitled the "American Scene" which was held at the Van Vechten-Lineberry Taos Art Museum. Both exhibitions, which Jackson curated, included major works by a select group of nationally recognized artists from across the country. This culminated a dream Jackson had to exhibit under one roof in Taos, important 20th century traditional U.S. painters. These exhibitions were supported and sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Lineberry.

Like in 1965, Jackson today continues his lifelong habit of self-withdrawal choosing his own way and direction. "Art for me is a personal vision based upon a creative response. It is simply the process of living, reacting and creating through the mind and heart, one's own life experience”.


Jackson Morey Hensley was born in 1940 in Portales, New Mexico to a family that had come early to the Territory. Elias Turner Hensley (1870-1962) was the first doctor in the Territory near what is now Clovis, having moved from Oklahoma Indian Territory around the turn of the 20th century. He had already been investing in NM Territory land with another OK Indian Territory doctor. As drought hit the state, over time he was able to buy out adjoining homesteaders until he had 20 sections.

Jackson’s father, another Elias Turner Hensley (1907-1967), became a prominent jurist, ultimately the Chief Justice of the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Morey was his mother Elizabeth’s maiden name. His beloved grandmother, Jessie Morey, moved from Wisconsin and lived with the family when Jackson was in high school. (Jackson’s three children all bear a form of Morey in their names, a tribute to the character of this gentle woman.)

School was tough for the young student with learning disabilities. Math was easy and drawing was easy. Spelling and English were hard because of his dyslexia. Not only did Jackson turn letters around, but he heard the words of a sentence as a jumble. He would have to have time to reorganize the jumble to understand what was said. This processing time made him appear slow to some teachers and peers.

Fortunately Jackson had his pony, Black Lightning, who did not look like much, but was the fastest equine in town. Black Lightning and the family’s big mutt, Butch, would set off to first grade. Jackson would tie Lightning to a tree and Butch would curl at the pony’s feet until school was out. Then the ride back home together to do chores on their little farm on the edge of Portales. Black Lightning and Butch were the first of many horses and dogs that Jackson would own in his life.

As Jackson matured, he found he was coordinated for sports. Basketball was his favorite, a sport he would continue well into his 40’s playing on the Pueblo Indian team in Taos. He was co-captain of his Portales high school team when he graduated in 1958. He attended Texas Tech for one year, intending to become an architect but taking art as well.

His enjoyment of art led Jackson to write to Peter Hurd in the summer of 1959. Hurd, a prominent New Mexican artist who eventually was asked to do the official portrait of President Lyndon Johnson, replied to the letter, inviting Jackson to come down to visit him and to bring his work. Later looking at his sketches, Hurd’s wife Henriette suggested Jackson become Peter’s student. Peter demurred, saying he did not have time. Peter wrote to Jackson’s father, suggesting he send Jackson to the National Academy of Design. The letter said: You should help him go, because he will go. He is driven to art.

Several times in that summer and the next, Jackson drove the 140 miles to San Patricio, NM to ride into the hills with Peter Hurd. Tieing up their horses, they would do sketches. “Hurd’s would be great, mine would be terrible,” Jackson remembers ruefully.

Hurd’s wife, Henriette, an exquisite artist herself, was not at the ranch every time Jackson was there. When she was, Henriette had a way of getting to the point when the two came back into the house. She would look at the drawings and make comments. One day she said to Jackson, “You have proven you can make a lot of drawings, now make a good one!”

Jackson always appreciated the guidance and kindness the Hurd’s accorded him. One incident exemplified their willingness to generously help him. When Jackson was working on his first crucifix drawing, Peter Hurd told Jackson over and over that he had the attitude of the body of Christ wrong. Finally Peter took off his shirt, extended his arms out from his shoulders and hung his head. He posed for that painting for two hours. Picking up his shirt afterwards, he went to look at the sketches. “You have it right, Jackson.” he said of the painting that is now in the Taos Art Museum.

Yet Peter Hurd called his wife’s brother, Andrew Wyeth, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for advice on the best school for the young artist. Wyeth said Leon Kroll was best draftsman at the National Academy of Design. All instructors there were also members of the National Academy of Artists.

It was done. The 18-year-old headed for New York. A Mrs. Blewer took classes at the National Academy of Design. She offered Jackson a place to stay if he would walk the family’s two dogs at least a couple of times every day.

Mr. Blewer was a stock broker with an apartment across the street from the Guggenheim, then under construction. Jackson was ensconced in the former maid’s quarters after three weeks of living at the YMCA. He took the spoiled miniature Schnauzers to Central Park. He ate his meals at a little restaurant around the corner from the National Academy. Sometimes he and Leon Kroll would take sandwiches to the park and eat lunch together on the lawn with other National Academy students. The Blewers often handed him tickets to Broadway shows, which opened up another dimension to the young man from Portales.

The following year, Jackson received a scholarship to become a member of the Salmugundi Club and to reside on the top floor of 47 Fifth Avenue. At age 19 Jackson was inducted into the oldest club for artists in the US. Salmugundi was founded in 1825, modeled after the London Royal Academy. Jackson was invited to submit paintings for several exhibitions at the Salmugundi Club, the National Academy of Design, as well as at the National Art Club. He received prizes in all three venues.

In this rich atmosphere he enjoyed almost daily trips to one or more NYC Museums. Jackson reveled in being able to see works by his favorite draftsmen: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Velasquez, and Thomas Eakins. He loved the way Velasquez and Eakins made their subjects breathe from the canvas.

Instructor Leon Kroll’s paintings were also on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One day at the Academy looking at Jackson’s work, Kroll asked him what kind of paint he was using. Jackson told him. “Why?” exclaimed Kroll. “How can you expect to paint well if you use poor quality paint?”

“It is what I can afford, Mr. Kroll,” responded Jackson. Kroll marched him down to the Winsor & Newton Co. art supply store in the Academy. He pulled down the paints, brushes and canvas that Jackson should use. Jackson learned that art that is to last three or four hundred years, has to start with quality materials. Kroll saw to it that Jackson was able to work in the store part time and receive all of his supplies gratis.

The Hurds taught him about good frames. Henriette used H. H. Hendenryk for all her frames. Peter used D. Matte Co. framers. Both frame shops were in New York City. Jackson was able to visit both at length. Hendenryk, founded in Amsterdam in 1845 and expanded to New York in 1936, had the world’s largest collection of antique frames to study. He learned how to frame, how to carve the frames, how to decorate with sgraffito. Eventually he maintained a frame shop in Taos to make sure he had a supply of quality frames.

Vernon Porter, director of the National Academy of Design, allowed Jackson to run the elevator during exhibitions held there, because attendees gave good tips to the operator. One patron recognized Jackson and asked, “Why are you running the elevator? You have paintings in the show!” Jackson grinned and replied, “I need the money.”

Porter, known as a surrealist landscape painter, also recommended Jackson take drawing from William Auerbach-Levy, editorial artist for The New Yorker magazine. Levy taught at the Academy two days a week. Jackson ended up as Levy’s student instructor the other three days. He jumped at the job to speed up his learning process. It provided him with a model to draw all day and in evening classes.

Lawrence Wills, a distant cousin of Grandmother Jessie Morey, invited Jackson for weekends at his place in Hastings-on-Hudson. Jackson helped with chores there and met the girl across the street, Carolyn Brown, one year younger than he. Numerous National Academicians from the school attended their wedding in August 1961.

Jackson and Carolyn moved to New Orleans where Carolyn spent her last year earning her degree in education at Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, the coordinate women's college of Tulane University. Their son Michael was born there in 1962.

Carolyn’s degree in hand, they moved back east to a home in Old Long Ridge Village, NY. Soon they bought a house in West Redding, CT. Jackson worked on the old farm house and converted the barn to become his studio. Daughter Janet was born there in 1964. It was in Connecticut during that pregnancy that Carolyn received her diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.

Paul Juley also came to the studio on the Saugatuck River in 1966 to photograph Jackson and his paintings. Those pictures became part of the Peter A. Juley & Son series on American artists, now housed in the Smithsonian.

Growing tired of the increasing urbanization around them in Connecticut, in 1967 Jackson and Carolyn moved back to New Mexico. They found a wreck of an old adobe in Taos next to the Indian lands. The house had belonged to Joseph Imhoff, originally an artist for Currier & Ives, who built the adobe. In 1929 Joseph and his wife Sarah moved to Taos permanently to build their new home facing the sacred mountain behind the Taos Pueblo. The house had fallen into disrepair, the roof missing in places. The Hensleys restored it and added greatly to the living area. They kept Arabian horses and Salukis within the high walls they built around the compound.

The Arabians came about because of a 1968 Jackson Hensley exhibition in Santa Fe, NM, a show at the Jean Seth Gallery. Richard Pritzlaff, an Arabian horse breeder and Chinese art collector, furnished orchids from his greenhouse for the show to his good friend, Jean. His generosity led Jackson to ask about the orchid donor.

“I was told the orchids came from Richard Pritzlaff. He had Arabian horses at his beautiful Rancho San Ignacio in Sapello, NM. That show changed my life and my family’s life. All but two of the 42 paintings on exhibition were sold in the first two hours. It enabled us to continue adding to the Imhoff house. Soon after the show I started collecting Richard’s horses which led to my interest in Asil horses of the desert and eventually to Davenport Arabian horses.”

The years flew by in Taos where he kept a gallery and studio some 40 years. Years ago Carolyn had made the decision with her doctor to live a full life rather than a long life. In 1989 she died after two and a half years of dialysis and heart problems. Never having been able to obtain health insurance for her because of the diabetes, the great adobe house, furnishings and some 40 paintings were sold to pay the medical bills.

After Carolyn died, Jackson married Tresa Vorenberg, a goldsmith in Santa Fe.. Their daughter Morika Rose was born in 1994, five years after they were married. Four and a half years later, they divorced.

In 2000, the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art purchased Jackson's epic painting entitled "The Prayer" for their permanent collection. The 72” x 90” work greets visitors to the Boulder, CO museum at the end of the hallway leading to the rooms of the collection. The year 2000 also marked the second annual showing of the exhibition entitled the "American Scene”, held at the Van Vechten-Lineberry Taos Art Museum. Both exhibitions, curated by Jackson, included major works by a select group of nationally recognized artists from across the U.S.

In 2012, upon Morika’s graduation from Taos High School, Jackson moved to Illinois to marry another breeder of Arabian horses, Alice Martin. He moved with six of his Davenport Krush horses to live on her family’s Centennial farm. There he continues to paint daily in his studio converted from the draft horse barn built by Alice’s father in 1937. Occasionally noting another one of his paintings has joined a museum or private collection, Jackson is enjoying the different terrain and flora of central Illinois.

Traditional Art

Hensley Gallery, Traditional FIne Art featuring the work of Jackson Hensley

"It is Finished"
by Jackson Hensley