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

One of The Cummer Museum of Art & Garden's most popular pieces is John Steuart Curry's "Parade to War, Allegory." The piece created by Curry during the Great Depression and right before World War II exemplifies the multiple veins of American sentiment during that era.

Published September 22, 2012 in Weekend Edition      3 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

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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September 23, 2012, 11:43:23 AM
Well since no one else is going to comment.  The first time I went to the cummer, I was stunned to see this painting there.  I was very familiar with it but had no idea it was there, then my second surprise was the magnificent portrait of andrew jackson.  The artist was right but unfortunately at the wrong time.


September 23, 2012, 12:35:31 PM
@civil42806, when I first saw this painting I was still in high school...I was surprised by it. I was under the obviously inaccurate impression that the entire country was for America's involvement in WWII, even if it was begrudgingly.

Curry's painting spurred me to think about the anti-war groups in America at that time.  Which if I remember correctly were people who believed in an insulated/isolated America.

Wikipedia has a superficial overview of the opposition to World War II.

It's such a depressing piece. No hope. Just a march to death. The soldiers are painted like skeletons. Dead even before they are in war.

Well, maybe a little hope in the unknowing kids playing.

The opportunist photographer seems excited to get that good shot. Happy about creating good content and less concerned with the significance of the march.

It seems that only the older women understand what is about to happen.

The lady in white...though she is a focal point. I hardly see her.

Curious, what do you mean by "the artist was right but unfortunately at the wrong time."


September 24, 2012, 02:07:32 PM
I really love when the artwork inspires someone to look a little longer or think a little harder about a subject.  That process is exactly why art is so important to our society and to the learning experience.  I love that after seeing this piece you found it important to look a little deeper into the history of the time. 
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