John Steuart Curry


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(b nr. Dunavant, Kan., 14 Nov. 1897; d Madison, Wis., 29 Aug. 1946).

American painter. From 1919 to 1926 he worked as an illustrator for pulp magazines, then spent a year in Europe, before settling in New York, where he was encouraged and supported by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. He believed that art should grow out of everyday life and be motivated by affection, and his subjects were taken from the Midwest he loved (he was born on a farm in Kansas, and never forgot his roots). Two of his most famous works are Baptism in Kansas (1928, Whitney Mus., New York) and Hogs Killing a Rattlesnake (1930, Art Inst. of Chicago); they show his anecdotal, rather melodramatic style (he often depicted the violence of nature)—sometimes weak in draughtsmanship, but always vigorous and sincere. In the 1930s Curry was recognized—along with Benton and Grant Wood—as one of the leading exponents of Regionalism, and he was given commissions for several large murals. The best known—generally regarded as his masterpieces, even though the scheme was never completed—are in the state capitol in Topeka, Kansas (1938–40); the subjects include the activities of John Brown, the famous campaigner against slavery.

Subjects: Art.

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