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John Steuart Curry

painter known for his realistic depictions of rural midwestern scenes

John Steuart Curry

John Steuart Curry was born in Dunavant, Kansas, on November 14, 1897. Raised on a farm, he developed an attachment and respect for farm animals, as well as an understanding of how weather conditions can affect farm life. He also showed interest and talent in art, especially painting. Curry studied at various art centers across the country, including the Kansas City Art Institute (1916), the Art Institute of Chicago (1916-1918), and Geneva College of New York (1918-1919). In 1926, he went to Paris, where he spent a year studying the works of the old masters, especially Peter Paul Rubens, Gustave Courbet and Honore Daumier. Soon after returning to the United States he settled in New York City, taught at the Art Students League and Cooper Union, and for a brief time traveled with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

After a career as a magazine illustrator, Curry worked with notable success as both an easel and mural painter. His murals include decorations for the buildings of the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior, in Washington, D.C., and dramatic scenes of Kansas landscape and history for the state capitol in Topeka, Kansas. His oil paintings are realistic depictions, primarily of rural midwestern scenes.

mural of John Brown in the Kansas State Capitol

mural from Kansas State Capitol

With the American artists Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, whose work also dealt with rural life, Curry contributed to the regionalist school of American painting. Among his most notable works (besides the public murals) are Spring Shower (1931) and Wisconsin Landscape (1938-1939), both in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; and Baptism in Kansas (1928), The Flying Codonas (1932), painted during his travels with a circus, The Ne'er-Do-Well (1929), and The Stockman (1929), all in the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City.

Curry was artist in residence at the University of Wisconsin from 1936 until his death, on August 29, 1949.

Peter Paul Rubens
Thomas Hart Benton
Grant Wood

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The Robinson Library >> Fine Arts >> Painting >> United States

This page was last updated on 09/24/2017.