John Steuart Curry (1897-1946) was born in Kansas and after training at the Chicago Art Institute, the Kansas City Art Institute and the Paris Academie Julian, major publications such as the Saturday Evening Post gainfully employed his talent for illustration. The circus spectacle that he enjoyed in the rural county fairs inspired him to tour with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, from which were born a series of sketches, watercolors and paintings that captured the rich pageantry of carnival life. Curry’s works also reflected his desire to create art meaningful to the American people.
From left to right:
Sunflower, John Steuart Curry, 1942, Watercolor, ink & sepia, 17 x 13.5 inches
Elephants, John Steuart Curry, 1936, Lithograph, 9 x 12.75 inches
The Missed Leap, John Steuart Curry, 1934, Lithograph, 16.38 x 9.75 inches
An exhibition showcase at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art planned for fall 2017 includes works from John Steuart Curry. Opening to the public on Thursday, November 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s diverse collection of art created by or about Oklahomans – and included is a large oil sketch by major American regionalist painter John Steuart Curry depicting the Oklahoma Land Run. Curry will be featured alongside other artists including Oscar Brousse Jacobson, Nellie Shepherd, David Fitzgerald and Woody Big Bow.
The Oklahoma Land Rush (shown above) by John Steuart Curry from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, National Archives and Records Administration. John Steuart Curry gained much of his national reputation for his Kansas rural scenes of people terrorized by natural phenomena such as tornadoes, farm-house living conditions, religious gatherings or spirited animals.
From left to right:
John Brown, John Steuart Curry, 1939, Lithograph, 14.75 x 10.79 inches
Our Good Earth, John Steuart Curry, Lithograph *not currently for sale
Prized Stallions, John Steuart Curry, 1938, Lithograph, 12.75 x 8.75 inches
John Steuart Curry was a descendant of many generations of farmers and was the first born of five children. Curry has been known to state that he was raised on hard work and the shorter catechism – up early working year-round. Even from a young age, Curry was constantly drawing and began art lessons at the age of 12. Curry’s mother also gave him his first glimpse of the Old Master painters through reproductions of their work she had collected throughout her lifetime and on her honeymoon.
Curry’s depiction of the Midwest is moving and unlike any other. Curry depicts the human form in a way from the ground up; wanting to provide a look into the life of a true farmer, a Midwestern wife, a circus-goer and animals.
Curry has since painted many murals for Washington’s Government buildings, his work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum and he ranks with top United States artists being shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Chicago Art Institute.