"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Thursday, August 02, 2007







John Steuart Curry murals spread an important message about Kansas

Story by Dana Davis (49ABCnews, Topeka, Kansas)

A large, striking, portrait of controversial abolitionist John Brown, painted in all his fury.

Towering images of a Kansas frontiersman and Spanish explorers.

Vivid murals in deep rich colors of burnt orange, chocolate brown, indigo and emerald painted by John Steuart Curry in the State Capitol.

"The murals that Mr. Curry painted in the Capitol was done in the the early 1940s. Mr Curry was commissioned to paint the East Wing where we are now, the West Wing, also the rotunda," said Don Dunn, Tour Guide for the Capitol.

Perhaps the most famous and one of the most controversial paintings of Curry is that of John Brown. Dunn says critics did not like the use of John Brown, the color scheme, and the overall menacing look of the mural, including the tornado and fire.

"Mr. Curry explained any person that he painted, which he felt was important to Kansas history, he was gonna paint larger then life," Dunn said.

"The tornado, he explains, as the gathering of the storms of war. The fire as fires of war, but it's also put there so show the destruction that the Civil War caused across the Kansas territory," Dunn said. . . .

Curry was also commissioned to paint the rotunda, but it didn't happen.

"After he completed the paintings in the West Wing, Mr. Curry was basically fired by the legislators," Dunn said.

Curry left the state, never signing his artwork. He declared it unfinished because he didn't paint the scenes planned for the rotunda.

John Steuart Curry died of a heart attack in August of 1946 at the age of 48. His wife said it was of a broken heart, being rejected by his home state. But, Kansas finally did apologize to Curry in 1992 the legislature issued an official apology for its treatment of the artist.

Postscript: The Curry murals were nominated for the Eight Wonders of the World.

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