"Rush for the Oklahoma Land - 1889" by John Steuart Curry (1897-1946), 1939, oil on canvas
John Steuart Curry conveys the anticipation of the settlers about to establish their new lives in the Oklahoma Territory in Rush for the Oklahoma Land—1889. Men spur their horse-drawn wagons as a train passes in the background, emphasizing the contrast between tradition and innovation.
Born in 1897 rural Dunavant, Kansas, Curry was a regionalist painter who drew inspiration from the rural Midwest. Regionalism was an artistic movement of the 1930s that was fostered by commissions from the Public Works of Art Project and the Federal Art Project. Curry first gained notoriety with his 1928 painting Baptism in Kansas, which Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney purchased in 1931 for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In 1936, Curry became the University of Wisconsin-Madison Agricultural College’s first artist in residence, employed to promote cultural awareness and foster artistic creativity within rural communities. Later that year, Curry received commissions to create murals for the U.S. Department of the Interior as well as the U.S. Department of Justice.