Tragic Prologue by John Steuart Curry

Tragic Prologue by John Steuart Curry
Tragic Prologue by John Steuart Curry

This large painting (350 x 950 cm) is of undoubted visual power, especially because of the pyramidal composition chosen by the artist, a composition completely dominated by the figure of a giant in the center.

It is actually a painting depicting the American Civil War in the territory of Kansas.


Tragic Prologue by John Stuart Curry

In 1937, the painter John Steuart Curry was commissioned to do the pictorial decoration of various rooms of the Topeka Capitol, the capital of the state of Kansas. He had to make several paintings that would represent the history of those lands, and also that would somehow capture their present and their hopes for the future.

The fact is that Curry invested from 1937 to 1942 to complete a series of very interesting works. But among all of them stands out this huge canvas en titled Tragic Prologue.

In it we see the two sides of Southerners and abolitionists facing each other. They are easily identifiable by the flags, and of course they are in a belligerent attitude. All of them located in the harsh landscape of Kansas, where tornadoes are common, as we see on the left side of the canvas. Just as fires in your farm fields are quite normal, as depicted on the right.

And also related tothat landscape and its history, the painter has represented in the background a caravan of pioneers heading west. A caravan that marks a horizontal line that crosses the canvas and gives it depth.

However, the most striking thing about the whole picture is the central scene of the two sides preparing for war and especially the figure of that great character in the middle. This is none other than John Brown, whose powerful presence gave the work a touch of controversy.

John Brown fought on the abolitionist side and became a popular hero because of the crudeness with which he fought Southern slavery. In fact, many considered them one of the provocateurs of theCivil Warafter some other massacre he carried out in 1856 accompanied by his sons and other militiamen.

And even later, already in thestate of Virginiahe was accused of organizing a slave rebellion in 1859, for which he was arrested and sentenced to death

But that somewhat controversial profile completely disappears in this painting, where we see him as a giant over the rest of the scene, and with the appearance of a prophet or a preacher leading the rest. Of course, with a weapon in hand and mercilessly stepping on the enemy.

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