Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

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John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West,

at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum

13 June - 30 August 1998


Encouraged by the government-sponsored programs of the New Deal, Curry participated in the renaissance of public art - mural art - and found therein a sense of mission, even as he felt the pain of public disapproval of his mural productions. Curry held fast to an art that took as its foundation the relation of humankind to nature and of men to women to one another. In doing so, his paintings inspired by the lives of people in rural Kansas gave form to issues that extended beyond America's Middle West. At its best Curry's art has the power to transcend region, and that, in the end, is what makes it such a revealing window onto a time and a place.


Wisconsin Landscape, 1937-39, oil on canvas, 42 x 84 inches


In 1937 Curry took up a position as artist in residence at the University of Wisconsin, the very first such post ever at an American university. He was hired by the university's renowned agriculture school not to teach art but to inspire the people of rural Wisconsin to cultivate their creative spirits. This widely admired social experiment was truly remarkable, for it placed art at the very center of all human enterprise, Curry remained in Madison for ten years, until his death from a stroke in August 1946.

John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West was organized by the Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, with Patricia Tunker, Associate Curator of American Art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,

John Steuart Curry opened at the Elvehjem Museum of Art on March 7 and will remain there until May 17, 1998. It will be at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum from June 13 through August 30, 1998, and will then show at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, from October 12, 1998 through January 3, 1999.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major monograph on the artist published by Hudson Hills Press, with contributions by leading authorities on American Regionalist art, including Patricia Junker, Charles Eldredge, Henry Adams, Robert Gambone, M. Sue Kendall, Theodore Wolff, and Lucy Mathiak. Retail Price $50.


rev. 11/26/10

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