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.
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 inJohn Steuart Curry. Exh. cat., Kansas State Capitol, Topeka. [Lawrence, Kan.], 1970, p. 14.
Calder M. Pickett inJohn Steuart Curry. Exh. cat., Kansas State Capitol, Topeka. [Lawrence, Kan.], 1970, pp. 40, 78, no. 40.
James F. Pilgrim. Paintings from the Metropolitan, Pinturas del Metropolitano. Exh. cat., Bronx County Courthouse. New York, 1971, unpaginated, no. 3.
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 inProfil 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).