Art/ Collection/ Art Object

John Brown

Artist:
John Steuart Curry (American, Dunavant, Kansas 1897–1946 Madison, Wisconsin)
Date:
1939
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
69 x 45 in. (175.3 x 114.3 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1950
Accession Number:
50.94.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 762
Throughout the 1930s, Curry, a native of Kansas, was closely associated with Thomas Hart Benton as a member of the artistic movement known as Regionalism. This large painting by Curry is a large study for the artist’s mural in the rotunda of the Kansas State Capitol. One of the most compelling and controversial figures in nineteenth-century American history, John Brown devoted his life to opposing the extension of slavery in the 1850s into the Kansas Territory in battles that presaged the Civil War, which began in 1861. Curry depicted Brown larger-than-life in an open, stark landscape besieged by a tornado, a meteorological symbol for the conflict, and with a slave at his side. The abolitionist’s crazed expression and animated hair and beard suggest the messianic fervor that fueled his opposition to human bondage.
Inscription: Signed, dated and inscribed (lower right): "John Brown"/Detail of Kansas Mural/John Steuart Curry ©/1939
the artist (1939–at least 1942); Encyclopædia Britannica, Chicago (by 1945–50; sold to MMA)

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Art," January 10–February 18, 1940, no. 24 (as "John Brown, Detail Study of Kansas Mural").

San Francisco. Palace of Fine Arts. "Golden Gate International Exposition," May 25–September 29, 1940, no. 1308 (lent by Walker Galleries, New York City).

Art Institute of Chicago. "Encyclopaedia Britannica Collection of Contemporary American Painting," April 12–May 13, 1945, no. 27.

Lawrence. University of Kansas Museum of Art. "John Steuart Curry, 1897–1946," April 13–May 24, 1957, no. 44.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Three Centuries of American Painting," April 9–October 17, 1965, unnum. checklist.

Topeka. Kansas State Capitol. "John Steuart Curry," October 3–November 3, 1970, no. 40.

Bronx County Courthouse. "Paintings from the Metropolitan, Pinturas del Metropolitano," May 12–June 13, 1971, no. 3.

Westport, Conn. Westport Public Library. "Westport Artists of the Past: A Bicentennial Exhibition 1976," June 12–30, 1976, unnumbered cat. (front cover).

Moscow. State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. "Representations of America," December 15, 1977–February 15, 1978, no catalogue.

Leningrad. State Hermitage Museum. "Representations of America," March 15–May 15, 1978, no catalogue.

Minsk, Belarus. Palace of Art. "Representations of America," June 15–August 15, 1978, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tribute to a Curator: Robert Beverly Hale," November 16, 1978–March 4, 1979, extended to March 18, 1979, unnum. checklist.

Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 220.

Jacksonville, Fla. Jacksonville Art Museum. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 9–April 21, 1985, unnum. cat. (p. 103).

Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Museum of Art. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 5–June 30, 1985, unnum. cat.

New York. National Academy of Design. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," July 16–September 1, 1985, unnum. cat.

Evanston, Ill. Terra Museum of American Art. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 15–November 10, 1985, unnum. cat.

Little Rock. Arkansas Arts Center. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 12, 1985–January 19, 1986, unnum. cat.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 9–March 30, 1986, unnum. cat.

St. Paul. Minnesota Museum of Art. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 20–June 8, 1986, unnum. cat.

Turin. Galleria Lingotto. "Arte Americana, 1930–1970," January 11–March 31, 1992, unnumbered cat. (p. 61).

Madison, Wis. Elvehjem Museum of Art. "John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West," March 7–May 17, 1998, unnumbered cat. (pl. 62).

San Francisco. M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. "John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West," June 13–August 30, 1998, unnumbered cat.

Kansas City, Mo. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. "John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West," October 11, 1998–January 3, 1999, unnumbered cat.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Thomas Hart Benton’s 'America Today' Mural Rediscovered," September 30, 2014–April 19, 2015, no catalogue (see MMA Bulletin 72, Winter 2015).

"Artists Finally Send Their Best to 1940 Whitney Annual." Art Digest 14 (January 15, 1940), p. 5, ill.

John Steuart Curry. John Steuart Curry. New York, 1945, unpaginated, ill., lists it in the Encylopaedia Britannica collection.

Grace Pagano. The Encyclopædia Britannica Collection of Contemporary American Painting. Ed. Grace Pagano. Chicago, 1946, unpaginated, colorpl. 28.

Brett Waller in John Steuart Curry. Exh. cat., Kansas State Capitol, Topeka. [Lawrence, Kan.], 1970, p. 14.

Calder M. Pickett in John Steuart Curry. Exh. cat., Kansas State Capitol, Topeka. [Lawrence, Kan.], 1970, pp. 40, 78, no. 40.

Sam Hunter and John Jacobus. American Art of the Twentieth Century: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, 1973, fig. 294.

William Slaughter. Westport Artists of the Past: A Bicentennial Exhibition 1976. Exh. cat., Westport Public Library. Westport, Conn., 1976, unpaginated, ill. front cover (color).

William S. Lieberman in Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso. Exh. cat., Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. Bordeaux, 1981, pp. 169–70, no. 220, ill.

Lowery Stokes Sims. The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Jacksonville Art Museum. New York, 1984, pp. 9–10, 92, 102–3, ill. (color).

Patricia Junker in Patricia Junker Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison. John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West. New York, 1998, pp. 196, 206–7, 234, colorpl. 62 and ill. p. 196 (fig. 1, in progress ca. 1939).

Barbara Haskell. The American Century: Art and Culture, 1900–1950. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, 1999, p. 230, fig. 452 (color).



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