John Brown

John Steuart Curry American

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 an enslaved man at his side. The abolitionist’s crazed expression and animated hair and beard suggest the messianic fervor that fueled his opposition to human bondage.

John Brown, John Steuart Curry (American, Dunavant, Kansas 1897–1946 Madison, Wisconsin), Oil on canvas

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