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John Steuart Curry and Curry family papers, 1848-1999

More Information

Megan McShea
Scope and Contents
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.
John Steuart Curry's widow, Kathleen Curry, lent materials on reels 164-168 for microfilming in 1971. In 1979, she subsequently donated portions of the material lent, along with additional items, some of which were transferred to Spencer Museum of Art. In 1972, Mildred Curry Fike, John Steuart Curry's sister, gave material and R. Eugene Curry, a brother, donated more material in 1975 and 1993. Ellen Schuster, John Steuart Curry's daughter, donated the home movies in 1973 and Daniel Schuster, John Steuart Curry's son-in-law, gave additional papers in 1991 in 1992, 1995, and 1999. In 1992, 1999 and 2000, additions were received from Kathleen Curry that may contain material previously filmed as a loan on reels 164-168.
Separated Material
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reels 164-168 and 4574-4576) including 98 sketchbooks, 1919-1942; a ledger, 1938-1946, of expenses with four loose letters to John Steuart Curry in Italian and Spanish; a notebook, 1932-1938, titled "Account and records of works, etc."; a journal, undated, of drafts of poems, and approximately 50 sketches. Loaned materials were returned to the lender some of which were subsequently donated to the Worcester Museum of Art in Worcester, Massachusetts. This material is not described in the collection container inventory.
John Steuart 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.
Related Material
The Archives of American Art holds an oral history interview with Kathleen Curry regarding John Steuart Curry conducted in 1990 and 1992.
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.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Processing Information
Portions of the collection received a preliminary level of processing at some point after donation. The collection was typically microfilmed in the order in which it was received on reels 164-168, 2714, 2743, and 2746-2748, except for donations made after 1992, which were not microfilmed. The entire collection was fully processed, arranged, and described by Megan McShea in 2007 and digitized in 2008-2009 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.