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Artists John Steuart Curry
John Steuart Curry Photo

John Steuart Curry

American Painter

Movements and Styles: American Regionalism, Realism, Modernism and Modern Art

Born: November 14th, 1897 - Dunavant, Kansas, USA

Died: August 29th, 1946 - Madison, Wisconsin, USA

John Steuart Curry Timeline

Quotes

"I would rather draw a picture of myself shovelling manure than do it."
John Steuart Curry
"And if I can't be an artist I'll be nothing."
John Steuart Curry
"I have tried for recognition from Kansas, but have had little success. This indicates, some say, the wisdom of the Kansans, while others, undoubtedly more short-sighted, think I should have had some expression of sorts from my native state."
John Steuart Curry
"Now, at the age of twenty-nine years, I grew up. I discovered my tradition. I discovered Rubens."
John Steuart Curry
"My whole life was made up of sensations. I used to go out in the garden and pull tomato vines to pieces so that I could smell them. I used to go out into the pasture to the mudholes where the doves had gathered so that I could see them fly up against the sky.... I loved the smell of wet dust."
John Steuart Curry

"Instead of grain and feed calendars in our house...we had Rubens, Bellini and Millet. That was unusual and had a great deal to do with forming my future"

Synopsis

During the Great Depression, John Steuart Curry devoted himself to painting sincere portrayals of the American heartland. At a time when critics were calling for an American vernacular art and the discovery of a usable past, Curry and other Regionalist artists headed the call to paint rural and small town America. These often idealized, even nostalgic, depictions of community, religious life, and indomitable work ethic aimed to provide solace to a populace suffering the effects of a financial disaster and widespread drought.

Recognized during his own time, along with Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, Curry painted easel paintings as well as murals that decorated various government buildings. Unfortunately his more traditional style of painting did not sustain his reputation after his death, and Curry remains an often overlooked American painter.

Key Ideas

In using allusions to Classical and Renaissance art, Curry imbued his subjects with a gravitas and importance that other depictions of rural life often lacked. He aimed to create timeless narratives that evoked moral authority and would inspire the people.
While Curry typically depicted bucolic scenes, many of them have a questioning, even sinister, quality about them that adds a complexity to otherwise straightforward depictions, but which led some to criticize him for misrepresenting folks in small Midwestern towns. This disquieting aspect of his work, though, might be seen as a commentary on rural American life and as a more multidimensional take on Regionalism's preferred subjects.
Criticized for his technical awkwardness and not producing a stronger, identifiable style, Curry nevertheless gave vision to an expressive regionalism that often embodied the dynamism and spirit of rural communities.

Biography

John Steuart Curry Photo

Childhood

In 1897, John Steuart Curry was born on a farm in the unincorporated community of Dunavant, Jefferson County, Kansas. According to a 1910 census, the town had a population of 85. He was the eldest child of Thomas Smith Curry and Margaret Stueart, both of whom were raised on mid-western farms but had been college educated. While the young painter would often do farm-work for several hours before heading into town for school, he could just as often be found in the fields sketching horses and buildings instead of shovelling manure.

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John Steuart Curry Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
John Steuart Curry
Interactive chart with John Steuart Curry's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

TitianTitian
Peter Paul RubensPeter Paul Rubens
Grant WoodGrant Wood
Thomas Hart BentonThomas Hart Benton

Personal Contacts

Grant WoodGrant Wood
Thomas Hart BentonThomas Hart Benton
Harvey Dunn
Thomas CravenThomas Craven

Movements

Illustration
American RegionalismAmerican Regionalism

Influences on Artist
John Steuart Curry
John Steuart Curry
Years Worked: 1916 - 46
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Grant WoodGrant Wood
Thomas Hart BentonThomas Hart Benton

Personal Contacts

Grant WoodGrant Wood
Thomas Hart BentonThomas Hart Benton

Movements

American RegionalismAmerican Regionalism

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Content compiled and written by Adam Heardman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Adam Heardman
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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