In 1937, Curry painted a mural for the Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka, Kansas, featuring an image of Kansas abolitionist John Brown in front of a crowd of people and a tornado. Curry simplified this composition in his 1939 painting, John Brown, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In the same year, he reproduced the image in this lithograph, published by Associated American Artists.
John Brown's armed raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859 helped precipitate the American Civil War and resulted in the abolitionist's execution for murder. Curry used the tornado as a symbol of Brown's righteous anger. The abolitionist's violent passion is likened to the fury of the twister, while the small sunflower in the bottom right corner serves as an emblem of Kansas, the Sunflower State.
John Steuart Curry (American, 1898-1946)
Gift of Mrs. D.A. Ross
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"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association