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1936-37 John Steuart Curry Born: Dunavant, Kansas 1897 Died: Madison, Wisconsin 1946 oil on canvas 36 1/4 x 48 1/4 in. (92 x 122.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Peter and Paula Lunder 2001.95 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, North Wing

Gallery Label

Curry created this painting of green pastures and fat cattle to reassure Americans worn down by the Dust Bowl years. A prize bull fills the canvas, grazing contentedly in meadows that fall away on all sides. Cowbirds light daintily on his back, feeding on the insects that would otherwise torment him. This image slyly evokes the myth of Ajax, the Trojan hero who went mad and slew all of his army’s cattle, thinking they were his enemies. Curry's Ajax stands between the viewer and the herd, his one wary eye suggesting that the cows might get their revenge.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Animal - cattle

Animal - portrait - Ajax

Landscape - farm


paint - oil

fabric - canvas