John Steuart Curry's "Parade to War" at The Cummer

Published On: Oct 23 2012 01:40:23 PM EDT

The Cummer's "June Morning" by Thomas Hart Benton


One of The Cummer's most popular pieces is Parade to War, Allegory by John Steuart Curry.  This work of art was painted in the wake of the Great Depression and on the eve of World War II (1939-1945). Curry turns the pageantry of a parade into a scene of foreboding and dread, most obviously disclosed in the skeletal faces of the young soldiers. The panic and sorrow of the two women in the foreground contrast with the hopeful innocence of the central striding couple and the young boys gathering streamers.

Typical of Curry’s work, this painting represents the isolationist attitudes and growing disillusionment expressed by an increasing number of Americans in the late 1930s.

John Steuart Curry enrolled in classes at the Kansas City Art Institute while still a junior in high school in rural Kansas. Initially he earned a living illustrating popular stories of the Wild West. Curry entered the most productive and successful period of his career in the 1930s. He taught at Cooper Union and the Art Students League in New York. He also received mural commissions as part of the Federal Art Project, which employed artists after the Great Depression.

Curry’s public mural projects concentrated on themes of religious intolerance, racial discrimination, and social upheaval. In 1936, he was appointed artist-in-residence within the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, a post he held until his death. Curry is identified with the Regionalist movement through his depictions of the history, people, and landscape of the American Midwest.

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