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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.


Artist: John Steuart Curry (1897 - 1946)
Date: 1935
30 1/4 x 25 1/8 in. (76.8 x 63.8 cm)
Framed: 38 1/2 × 33 1/4 × 2 1/2 in.
Medium: Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on board
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2011.4
Signed: l.l.: Self / 1935 / John Steuart Curry
On View
Accession Number: 2011.4
ProvenanceIrving Blumenthal, New York, NY. (Christie, Mason and Woods International, Inc., New York, NY), May 26, 1988, sale 6610, lot 297; purchased by Myron Kunin [1928-2013] dba Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis, MN, 1988; to (Alexandre Fine Art, New York, NY), 2011; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2011
Label TextA barrel-chested figure stands confident in the frame, with brushes in a firm grasp, a corduroy barn jacket, and a billowing pipe. In this self-portrait John Steuart Curry presents his ideal public self, but this depiction masks his well-known and intense self-criticism. Although he believed portraits must aim to “show the personality and inner meaning of the life before [them],” this artwork shows a self-assured professional rather than his sensitive, inner self.

Behind him, a blurred view of his 1931 George Washington Bicentennial mural depicts laborers at work, and suggests a view into the artist’s studio. The artist often painted self-portraits using a mirror, which explains why the image of the mural is reversed.

Along with Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, Curry is associated with Regionalism, a movement concentrating on local, realistic depictions of American life. By paralleling his own artistic exercise with the work of the mural figures, this native Kansan exemplifies the familiar Regionalist subject matter of American labor.