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John Steuart Curry, American, (1897–1946)
Tree Struck by Lightning, 1931
Oil on Canvas
30 in. x 24 in. (76.2 cm. x 60.96 cm.)

Object Type: Painting
Technique: Brushwork
Credit Line: Scripps College, Claremont, CA. Gift of Philip Gray, 1971
Accession Number: 0238

Oil paint on canvas.

Object Description
Even as a child Curry made drawings of the awesome storms of the Midwestern plains. In many of his mature works he depicted particular moments of storms, ranging from their development through their aftermath, and their effects on people, animals, and nature. Tree Struck by Lightning is an early dramatic example of this theme. The immediacy of the storm's effect is emphasized by the jagged break in the fallen bough with its foliage still fresh. A rainbow in the sky indicates the coming of fair weather with its promise of peace and harmony.

There is an anthropomorphic quality to the tree that recalls the art of another Midwesterner, Charles Burchfield. The fleshy color of the "wounded" trunk particularly suggests an analogy between plant and human life in their vulnerable resiliency.

Despite its small size, Tree Struck by Lightning has momunmentality because of the dominant foreground position of a single motif. Curry used this compositional mode later in several of his most powerful paintings, including John Brown of 1939, the subject of which is shown in front of another kind of storm, the tornado.

- Melinda Lorenz

For more information, please refer to the American Reflections exhibition catalogue.

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