John Steuart Curry

(American, 1897 – 1946)

John Steuart Curry, a leader of the American Regionalist movement, was born on a farm near Dunavant, Kansas on 14 November 1897. He paid his way through art school working first as a railroad section hand in Kansas City and then as a menial laborer in Chicago. In 1919, after playing football and studying for a year at Geneva College, he moved to New York City to study illustration with Harvey Dunn. During the early 1920s Curry struggled to make a living as an artist and consequently welcomed the opportunity to study in Europe. With a patron financing the trip, Curry moved to Paris in 1926 and spent the next year studying at Schoukhaieff's Russian Academy. At this time, the burgeoning expressionist and abstract movements influenced many artists; Curry, however, differed from his contemporaries and was more interested with the work of Gustave Courbet and Peter Paul Rubens. After his return from Paris he settled in Westport, CT. He always said that an artist should paint what he knows best. Following his own advice, he turned his interest inward and began drawing subject matter from his youth. His 1928 painting 'Baptism in Kansas,' painted entirely from memory, received critical acclaim and earned Curry recognition from the New York art world. Embracing the Midwest values of his youth, he incorporated these into his work and juxtaposed them against rural landscapes and storm scenes. Art historian Matthew Baigell stated, "To Curry, man's actions on the land, his contest with nature for dominance, was the basic American experience. Curry, recognized the capacities of both – nature's ability to devastate the land and man's ability to bring great riches from the soil." Within these scenes of man's interactions with nature and much of Curry's other works there is an underlying religious theme combined with a yearn for nostalgia, "a nostalgia for his own youth as well as for the old and simple distinctions between right and wrong." Curry also enjoyed teaching. After traveling with the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1932, he taught for four years at the Art Students League and Cooper Union. In1936 he returned to the Midwest and settled at the University of Wisconsin where he was artist-in-residence until his unexpected death in 1946.

  • Studied
  • Kansas City Art Institute, 1916
  • Art Institute of Chicago with E.J. Timmons & John W. Norton, 1916-1918
  • Geneva College, PA, 1918-1919
  • Schoukhaieff's Russian Academy, Paris, 1926-1927
  • With Harvey Dunn & Norton Reynolds
  • Member
  • National Academy of Design (Associate Member, 1937; Full Member, 1943)
  • Art Students League
  • Exhibited
  • Corcoran Gallery, 1928-1945, 1957
  • Whitney Museum of Art, 1928-1945
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1929-1945 (Gold Medal, 1941)
  • New York City, 1930
  • Northwestern Printmakers, 1933 (Purchase Prize)
  • Carnegie Institute, 1933 (Second Prize)
  • Art Institute of Chicago, 1920-1946
  • "Artists for Victory Exhibition," Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1941 ($3,000 Purchase Prize)
  • Wichita Art Museum
  • Solos:
    • Whitney Studio Club, NY, 1930
    • Ferargil Galleries, NY, 1933, 1935
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1937
    • Walker Gallery, NY, 1938
    • Associated American Artists, NY, 1947
    • University of Kansas, Lawrence, 1957
  • References
  • Ainsworth, The Cowboy in Art
  • Baigell, The American Scene, American Painting of the 1930s
  • Benton, An Artist in America
  • Boswell, Modern American Painting
  • Brown, American Painting from the Armory Show to the Depression
  • Cheney, Modern Art in America
  • Cummings, Dictionary of Contemporary American Artists
  • Czestochowski,John Steuart Curry & Grant Wood: A Portrait of Rural America
  • Dennis, Renegade Regionalists
  • Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
  • Gambone, Art & Popular Religion in Evangelical America 1915-1940
  • Gerdts, Art Across America
  • Gerdts & Burke, American Still-Life Painting
  • Gilbert & Henry, Kansas Printmakers
  • Goddard, "Remembering the Family Farm," American Art Review (Apr. 2001)
  • Hall, Eyes on America, The US as Seen by Her Artists
  • Hall & Glascock, Great Lakes Muse, American Scene Painting in the Upper Midwest 1910-1960
  • Heller & Williams, Painters of the American Scene
  • Jaffe, "Religious Content in the Art of John Steuart Curry," Winterthur Portfolio (1987)
  • Junker, John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West
  • Junker, "John Steuart Curry," American Art Review (June 1998)
  • Kendall, Rethinking Regionalism, John Steuart Curry and the Kansas Mural Controversy
  • Lucie-Smith, American Regionalism
  • Maciejunes, "Visions of the American Heartland," American Art Review (Apr. 2000)
  • Opitz (ed.), Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers
  • Pagano, Contemporary American Painting
  • Rose, American Painting
  • Ross, "Selections, Wichita Art Museum," America Art Review (Apr. 1998)
  • Samuels, Samuels' Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
  • Schmeckebier, John Steuart Curry's Pageant of America
  • Stearns (ed.), Illusions of Eden Visions of the American Heartland
  • Crane (ed.) Portrait of America
  • Other references
  • Work
  • Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL
  • Davenport Museum of Art, Davenport, IA
  • Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, KS
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • Arizona State University Art Museum
  • The University of Arizona Museum of Art
  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • National Gallery of Art
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art
  • Georgia Museum of Art
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Hutchinson Art Center, Hutchinson, KS
  • Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS
  • Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery, Lindsborg, KS
  • Mulvane Art Museum, Topeka, KS
  • Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS
  •  
  • Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS
  • Mead Art Museum, Amherst, MA
  • Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • Addison Gallery of Fine Art, Andover, MA
  • University of Michigan Museum of Art
  • Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, WI
  • Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MN
  • Minnesota Museum of American Art
  • Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
  • Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE
  • Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE
  • National Academy of Design Museum
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Butler Institute of American Art
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum
  • Museum of Art at Brigham Young University
  • Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, CA
  • Pensacola Museum of Art
  • Sheldon Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, IN
  • Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, MD
  • St. Louis Art Museum
  • Murals:
    • "The Tragic Prelude," Kansas State Capitol, Topeka, KS, 1938-1940
    • Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
    • Department of Justice Building, Washington, DC, 1936-1937
    • Department of Interior Building, Washington, DC
    • Norwalk, CT City Hall (formerly Norwalk High School)
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 1940-1942