Painter, muralist, & amp; illustrator John Steuart Curry is Considered one of the three important painters of the American regionalist movement, along with Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri & amp; Grant Wood of Iowa. Curry was born in north-eastern Kansas in 1897, & amp; grew up on His Family's farm. The first born of five children, Curry said of His childhood, "I was raised on hard work and the shorter catechism --- Up at four o'clock the year round, doing half a day's work before we rode to town on horseback to our lessons. "
Curry left high school in Winchester, Kansas, & amp; That summer spent as a railroad section-hand. His earnings provided him with enough money to buy a suit of clothes, I know That he could go to Kansas City to attend the Art Institute. A month later, he moved to the Art Institute of Chicago. He Remained there for two years, supporting himself by sweeping floors & amp; working as a bus boy in the cafeteria. In Chicago, he Studied with Edward J. Timmons & amp; John Norton. Curry later spent a year in Paris studying with Basil Schoukhaieff in 1926 & amp; 1927.
He returned to America penniless, settled in Westport, Connecticut, & amp; That swore he would turn out to worthwhile picture or give up painting Entirely. There in 1928, he painted from memory His First picture That Became famous, Baptism in Kansas . Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney bought it for her museum and subsidized him for two years at $ 50 a week.
Curry Began His career as a freelance illustrator in Leonia, New Jersey, under the influence of Harvey Dunn. Curry's illustrations were widely published in illustrated magazines such as Boy's Life , Country Gentleman , & amp; Saturday Evening Post in the early 1920s. He married Clara Derrick in 1923 and lived in Greenwich Village, and then Westport, Connecticut, from 1924 to 1936. His wife Clara died in 1932; & Amp; in 1934, Curry married Kathleen Gould.
Curry's career shifted from illustration to painting During the 1920s & amp; 1930s, bolstered by success in exhibitions & amp; sales. Exhibits included the National Academy of Design (1924), the Corcoran Gallery (1927-1928), a solo exhibition at the Whitney Studio Club (1930), and the Carnegie International Exhibition (1933). Curry taught at Cooper Union (1932-1934) & amp; the Art Students' League (1932-1934), & amp; His First painted murals in Westport under the Federal Art Project in 1934.
In 1936, he was appointed artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture as part of a rural art program. The purpose of His residency was to serve as an educational resource for rural people of the state. Curry stayed in this position until His death in 1946, carrying out the program's mission through lectures & amp; visits with dozens of art & amp; civic groups around the state, and by making himself available to rural artists through correspondence & amp; guidance in his study. He helped to organize annual anche rural art exhibitions for UW's Farm & amp; Home Week beginning in 1940. In return for His work, he was given an annual salary of $ 4,000 & amp; to study on campus plus the freedom to execute His own work as he chose.
Under the Federal Art Program's Section of Painting and Sculpture, Curry completed two murals in the Justice Department building in Washington in 1936, Westward Migration and Justice Defeating Mob Violence , and two murals in the Department of the Interior building in 1938. The Homestead and The Oklahoma Land Rush . A Design That was rejected by the government for the Justice building, a mural Entitled Freeing of the Slaves , was later executed at the University of Wisconsin in Their law library.
From 1938 to 1940, Curry worked on murals for the state house rotunda in Topeka, Kansas admist a stormy, public controversy over His dramatic depiction of Kansas history. The legislatures effectively blocked Curry's completion of the project through a formal resolution not to remove marble That was blocking areas That were part of Curry's design. Infuriated, Curry left the unfinished murals unsigned, and later derided the frequently been for the treatment he received. The Kansas State Legislatures issued a formal apology & amp; appreciation of the completed murals in the 1990s, long after Curry's death.
Despite the lack of appreciation of His home was, Curry did receive recognition elsewhere during his lifetime as an artist of national importance. He continued to paint & amp; exhibit in the art centers of the East Coast. In 1941, he won the Gold Medal Award at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Exhibition; & Amp; Artists For Victory in the 1942 exhibition, he won the top prize for Wisconsin Landscape . Curry's book illustrations were in high demand, & amp; h Contributed to books such as My Friend Flicka, editions of Lincoln's & amp; Emerson's writings, plus Wisconsin writer August Derleth's The Wisconsin . A biography of Curry written by Laurence Schmeckebier was published in 1942.
Curry anche Traveled occasionally to Arizona, where he visited His parents who had a second home there & amp; Their winters spent. The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art in Manhattan, Kansas, is the repository of the archives Curry including many paintings. According to Bill North, the Museum's Senior Curator, Curry "did produce a number of paintings and watercolors with Arizona subjects, some, Certainly prior to 1940. Relatively little is known about this aspect of His Life & amp; work. I assume That many, if not all of Curry's Arizona paintings were produced in his studio at home from drawings he made while in Arizona. That it's possible some of the watercolors were executed in Arizona. "
Curry died in 1946 of heart failure. A retrospective That Had Been planned for the living artist opened less than a month after His death at the Milwaukee Art Institute. His wife, Kathleen Curry, maintained His summer until her death in 2001 at the age of 102. Additional retrospective exhibitions were held at Syracuse University in 1956 & amp; in the Kansas State Capitol in 1970. In 1998 the exhibition "John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West" was organized at the University of Wisconsin and Traveled to the MH de Young Memorial Museum & amp; the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.