Curry, Clyde Beatty


Clyde Beatty

The Circus spectacle that Curry enjoyed in the rural county fairs inspired him to tour with the Ringling Brothers – Barnum and Bailey Circus at the height of the circus’s popularity in 1932. From these experiences he created a series of sketches, watercolors and paintings that captured the rich pageantry of carnival life. Famed wild-cat trainer Clyde Beatty was at the pinnacle of his popularity when Curry captured his thrilling act in the 1932 painting, Clyde Beatty.

The coming of the circus next week to Madison Square Garden will find a plumpish, youngish but baldish American artist more excited than any small boy in New York. The circus coming to town will mean a reunion with old friends to John Steuart Curry, who was "on the show" with them last year, trouping with them through New England and, incidentally, painting them.

He will greet Alfredo Cadona, greatest of aerialists; Clyde Beatty, who makes the lion cry he minute he enters the cage; the Wallendas, who do should pyramids on a tight wire with no net underneath; and Zacchini, the human projectile, who was an artist himself before he found the good life in living dangerously with the circus. The Mr. Curry will invite his friends and erstwhile subjects to view themselves as he has seen them at an exhibition of his circus pictures at the Ferargil Galleries...It is the first exhibition of its kind in this country...

- Excerpt from "Circus Troupe to View Art of Sawdust Ring," New York Herald Tribune, 29, March 1933 (Text found in "John Steuart Curry: Inventing the Middle West" by Patricia Junker)


John Steuart Curry: Scenes from an American Life, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, MO, September 18 - November 14, 2010

Images from the World Between: The Circus in Twentieth-Century American Art, organized by the American Federation of Arts

An Exhibition of Paintings of the Circus by John Steuart Curry, Ferargil Galleries, New York City, April 3 to 16, 1933