About the Artist
John Steuart Curry was an American Regionalist painter, illustrator, muralist and printmaker. His paintings of rural America were a comfort to many during the Great Depression.
Early Life and Education
John Stuart Curry was born in 1897 in Dunavant, Kansas, a town whose population was just 85 people in 1910.
His parents, Smith and Margaret Curry, were both college educated, well traveled and exposed their five children to art and literature and instilled in them a strong work ethic. They belonged to the reformed Presbyterian Church, an extension of Scotch Covenanters, which voted to outlaw slave-holding among its members in 1800.
Curry’s parents arranged for him to have art lessons when he was just twelve years old. In 1916, he attended the Kansas City Art Institute for a short time and then took a job on the railroads and saved up enough money to go to the Art Institute of Chicago. Curry’s education was interrupted by a stint in the military during World War l. After the war he completed his studies at the Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and, in 1919, went on to study illustration in New Jersey with Harvey Dunn.
Curry then went on to spend four years as a contributing illustrator for Boys’ Life, County Gentleman and The Saturday Evening Post.
In 1926 he went to Paris to study with Russian artist Basil Schoukhaieff and American sculptor, Hunt Dietrich.
Career and Family
Curry returned to the States in 1927. His painting Baptism in Kansas was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery to very favorable reviews. He continued to study at the Art Students League and also exhibited as a member of the Whitney Studio Club, the precursor to the Whitney Museum. The Whitney Studio Club helped to shore up Curry’s reputation as a major American painter and provide him with a stipend.
During the 1930s Curry taught at the Art Students League and at Cooper Union. He completed murals under the New Deal, which are still as powerful today as they were then.
Curry married Clara Derrick in 1923. Derrick died in 1932. In 1934 Curry married Kathleen Gould. Curry died of heart failure in 1946. Gould maintained Curry’s estate until her own death, in 2001, at age 102.
John Steuart Curry’s works can be found at the Met, the Whitney, MoMA, the Smithsonian and many other venues across the U.S.
John Steuart Curry Self Portrait 1937
John Steuart Curry Baptism in Kansas 1928
John Steuart Curry Ajax 1936