About This Artwork

John Steuart Curry
American, 1897–1946

Hogs Killing a Snake, c. 1930

Oil on canvas
76.5 x 97.3 cm (30 1/8 x 38 1/4 in.)

Restricted gift of an anonymous donor, 1947.392

Along with Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry attained significant fame as one of the three most important Regionalist painters of the 1930s. In 1941 Wood wrote about Curry: “It was action he loved most to interpret: the lunge through space, the split second before the kill, the suspended moment before the storm strikes.” Hogs Killing a Snake reveals his fascination with the violence of nature and the struggle for survival. Curry deliberately constructed the dynamic composition to heighten the vitality of his subject; the hogs converge from all angles upon the writhing snake, giving a sense of violent motion. Curry accentuated the vigor of the composition with his painting technique, using short, choppy brushstrokes and even scratching on the surface of the paint to suggest the bristling hair on the hogs’ backs. Although the subject was ostensibly drawn from a childhood experience, the painting transcends mere realism to become nearly epic.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Ferargil Galleries, John Steuart Curry: Recent Paintings, October 12-25, 1931, no cat.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 128th Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, Jan 29-March 19, 1933, cat. 308, as Hogs Killing a Snake.

Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings by Artists of the United States, 1934-35, cat. 26, ill.

Walker Galleries, New York, Opening Exhibition: Paintings by Six Americans, November 12-28, 1935, cat. 9.

San Francisco, Ca., Golden Gate International Exposition, Department of Fine Arts, Contemporary Art,
[February 19-October 29], 1939, cat. United States 94, ill. p. 51.

Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, An Exhibition of Contemporary Painting in the United States, Selected from the Department of Fine Arts, Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939, January 1940, cat. 17; traveled to Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, February 1940, Montreal, Art Association of Montreal, March 1940.

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Department of Fine Arts, Survey of American Painting, October 24-December 15, 1940, cat. 304, ill., as Hogs Killing a Rattlesnake.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Romantic Painting in America, November 17, 1943-Feb 6, 1944, cat. 66, ill.

Milwaukee Art Institute, Art of John Steuart Curry, September 5-October 15, 1946, cat. 19.

New York, Associated American Artists, John Steuart Curry: Twenty Years of His Art, March 24-April 12, 1947, cat. 6, as Hogs Killing a Rattlesnake.

Des Moines Art Center, January 30-February 26, 1950.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The 75th Anniversary Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by 75 Artists associated with the Art Students League of New York, [March 15-May 31], 1951, cat. 68, ill.

Bloomington-Normal Art Association, November 2-23, 1952.

Minneapolis, University of Minnesota University Gallery, 20th Century American Painting, June 15-September 15, 1953; traveled to St. Paul, Minn., St. Paul Gallery & School of Art, September 27-November 1, 1953.

Des Moines Art Center, Communicating Art from Midwest Collections: American and European Paintings and Sculpture 1835-1955, October 13-November 6, 1955, cat. 22, ill.

New York, American Federation of Art, European Circuit: American Painting of this Century, May 1-August 13, 1956. [Did not travel in Europe.]

New York, Syracuse University, Joe and Emily Lowe Art Center, A Retrospective Exhibition of Work by John Steuart Curry, October 7-November 2, 1956, unnumbered cat., dated 1931.

Lawrence, University of Kansas Museum of Art, John Steuart Curry 1897-1946, April 13-May 24, 1957, cat. 11, ill.

Lake Forest, Ill., Lake Forest College, Durand Art Institute, A Century of American Painting: Masterpieces Loaned by The Art Institute of Chicago, June 10-16, 1957, cat. 23, as Hogs Killing a Rattlesnake.

Wisconsin, Madison Art Center, John Steuart Curry: An Exhibition, January 19-February 23, 1969, cat. 20.

Topeka, University of Kansas Museum of Art, John Steuart Curry: A Retrospective Exhibition of his work held in the Kansas State Capitol, Topeka, October 3-November 3, 1970, cat. 10, ill. p. 64.

Texas, Tyler Museum of Art, American Painting 1900 to Present, March 21-April 28, 1971, unnumbered cat., ill.

Neenah, Wisconsin, Bergstrom Art Center, John Steuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, March 29-April 23, 1972.

Art Institute of Chicago, 100 Artists 100 Years: Alumni of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Centennial Exhibition, November 23, 1979-January 20, 1980, cat. 29.

Madison, Wisconsin, Elvehjem Museum of Art, John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West, March 7-May 17, 1998, pl. 21; traveled to San Francisco, Ca., Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, de Young Museum, June 1-August 30, 1998; Kansas City, Mo., Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, October 11, 1998-January 3, 1999.

Art Institute of Chicago, "America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s," June 5-September 18, 2016; travels to Paris, Musee de l'Orangerie, October 15, 2016-January 30, 2017; London, Royal Academy, February 25-June 4, 2017, cat. 10.

Publication History

Forbes Watson, The Star Spangled Banner, The Arts 18, 1 (October 1931), ill. p. 54.

"John Steuart Curry; John Butler; Ferargil Galleries," Art News 30, 3 (October 17, 1931), p. 10.

Laurence E. Schmeckebier, John Steuart Curry's Pageant of America (American Artists Group, 1943), pp. 30, 195, 347, fig. 161, p. 196.

Life, 1943, p. 371.

James Thrall Soby and Dorothy C. Miller, Romantic Painting in America, exh. cat. (Museum of Modern Art, 1943), pp. 45-46, cat. 66, ill. p. 119.

American Artists Group Monograph no 14, John Steuart Curry, 1945, p. 2.

"John Steuart Curry: 1897-1946," Bulletin from Associated American Artists 36 (September 1946), n.p.

Alexander Eliot, Three Hundred Years of American Painting (Time Incorporated, 1957), p. 217, ill. p. 215.

John I. H. Baur, Revolution and Tradition in Modern American Art (Harvard University Press, 1951), pp. 90-91, pl. 143.

John Steuart Curry: A Retrospective Exhibition of his work held in the Kansas State Capitol, Topeka, October 3-November 3, 1970, reprinted from Kansas Quarterly (University Press of Kansas, 1970), p. 10, 44.

Lawrence Alloway, "The Recovery of Regionalism: John Steuart Curry," Art in America, 64, 4 (July-August 1976), p. 71, ill. p. 70.

Patricia Junker, John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West (Hudson Hills Press in association with the Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998), pp. 116, 124, 222, 227, pl. 21.

James M. Dennis, Renegade Regionalists: The Modern Independence of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), pp. 16-17, fig. 5.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 78.

Ownership History

The artist; to Associated American Artists; sold to the Art Institute in 1947.

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