In his work, John Steuart Curry depicted a vigorous and active American landscape. Born on a farm near Dunavant, a small town in Kansas, Curry was well acquainted with the back-breaking work of farming as well as with the ferocious wind and rains storms that often swept through the state. Farm...
In his work, John Steuart Curry depicted a vigorous and active American landscape. Born on a farm near Dunavant, a small town in Kansas, Curry was well acquainted with the back-breaking work of farming as well as with the ferocious wind and rains storms that often swept through the state. Farm animals and storms would be important motifs for Curry throughout his career. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, Curry worked as an illustrator for popular magazines in the New York area from 1921 to 1926. Following a year of study in Paris (1926–27), where he admired the powerful work of Baroque painters, especially Peter Paul Rubens [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Peter%20Paul%20Rubens&objecttype=54], Curry moved to the artists’ colony in Westport, Connecticut, determined to become a painter rather than an illustrator. During the 1930s he became one of America’s best-known Regionalists, a group of painters devoted to figurative images of rural life. While many of Curry’s paintings reflect life in Kansas, he also depicted the area around Cooperstown on Lake Otsego in New York, where he occasionally vacationed. Nineteenth-century writer James Fenimore Cooper had made the area famous when he celebrated Lake Otsego in his Leatherstocking Tales, calling it the “Glimmerglass.” In Storm over Lake Otsego, Curry drew on the narrative skills he learned as an illustrator and on the example of Rubens’s highly energized paintings to capture the exertion of a man at the center of a whirlwind trying to control farm horses spooked by wind and lightning. Using somewhat lurid colors and dynamic forms, Curry portrayed the struggle of man with nature, a frequent theme in his work, and he made an ordinary American farmer the hero of the battle. In choosing such rural scenes, Curry exemplified the Regionalists’ desire to promote national subjects as worthy themes for great painting. His depiction of an American farmer subduing the forces of nature is evidence of the patriotic pride inherent in the style. This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).
Lower right: JOHN STEUART CURRY
1929, the artist. Ferargil Galleries, N. Y. About 1943, Polly Thayer (Mrs. Donald C.) Starr, Boston; 1955, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald C. Starr to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 12, 1955)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald C. Starr
- John Steuart Curry, American, 1897–1946
101.92 x 127.63 cm (40 1/8 x 50 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas