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John Steuart Curry and Curry family papers, 1848-1999

Curry, John Steuart, 1897-1946

Lithographer, Art teacher, Painter

The papers of John Steuart Curry and the Curry Family in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 10,868 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 10.1 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter, muralist, and illustrator John Steuart Curry, and Curry family papers, measure 10.1 linear feet and date from 1848 to 1999. Papers document his career and family history through certificates, correspondence, photographs, clippings, contracts, receipts, inventories, writings, notes, and other materials. The papers contain particularly rich documentation of Curry's period as artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin, from 1936 to 1946. Mural projects in Kansas, Washington, DC, and Wisconsin are also documented.
Biographical Materials include chronologies, biographical narratives, genealogical notes, certificates and awards, and other ephemera related to Curry and his family. Family Correspondence includes the earliest records created by Curry himself, including letters home from art school and from the East Coast during his early career.
Correspondence and Project files document mural projects, appearances, gallery relationships, and other activities from the early 1930s until his death in 1946 with correspondence, photographs, clippings, contracts, writings, and other miscellany. Subject files include pictorial reference and research files created by Curry for subjects depicted in his murals and paintings. Curry's writings include essays, lectures, interviews, and notes related to his technical and philosophical approach to art, as well as notes from his various travels, and essays by others about Curry. Personal Business Records contain records of artwork, business transactions, and personal finances.
Print Materials include print copies of published artwork by Curry, including magazine illustrations from Curry's early career. Extensive clippings, exhibition catalogs, and a scrapbook created by Curry as a youth are also found. Photographs depict Curry throughout his life in formal portraits, candid snapshots, and publicity photographs, with a significant number of photographs depicting Curry creating and posing with his artwork. The Artwork series contains a few sketches by Curry and seven canvases used for testing art materials. Additional sketches are found in Subject Files and scrapbooks.
Estate Papers contain materials dated after Curry's death in 1946 and mainly document the activities of Kathleen Curry in managing her husband's estate from 1946 until her death in 2001. Estate papers contain writings about Curry, correspondence, inventories of artwork, and alphabetical files documenting sales, exhibitions, and other projects.

Biographical/Historical Note

John Steuart Curry (1897-1946) was a painter, lithographer, and instructor. Curry worked as WPA muralist and is famous as one of The Regionalists, along with Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. He taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1936-1946.


Material on reels 164-168 lent for microfilming 1971 by Curry's widow, Kathleen Curry; in 1979 she subsequently donated portions of the material lent, along with additional material (filmed on reels 2746-2748). Curry memorabilia received with the papers (baby cup, baby dress, overalls, medals, paint box, watercolor box, 2 photographs) were transferred to Spencer Museum of Art. Material on reel 2714 donated 1972 and 1975 by Mildred Curry Fike, Curry's sister; and material on reel 2743 donated 1975 by R. Eugene Curry, a brother. The home movies were donated in 1973 by Ellen Schuster, Curry's daughter. Unmicrofilmed material donated in 1991 by Daniel Schuster, Curry's son-in-law, in 1992, 1995, 1999, and 2000 by Kathleen Curry, as well as a group in 1993 by R. Eugene Curry. Additions received from Kathleen Curry between 1992 and 1999 may contain more material previously filmed as a loan on reels 164-168.

Related Materials

Curry memorabilia received with the Kathleen Curry's donation in 1979 (baby cup, baby dress, overalls, medals, paint box, watercolor box, 2 photographs) were transferred to the Spencer Museum of Art in 1985.

Portions of Kathleen Curry's initial 1971 loan were not subsequently donated. The entire loan can be viewed on reels 164-168.

The Archives of American Art holds an oral history interview with Kathleen Curry regarding John Steuart Curry conducted in 1990 and 1992.


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • Materials loaned by Mrs. Curry in 1971 for microfilming were returned to the donor, who later donated the sketchbooks to the Worcester Museum of Art in 1999.