WRITTEN BY HEATHER STEWART, MARKETING INTERN
John Steuart Curry’s Parade to War, Allegory (1938) was created during the Great Depression on the eve of World War II, and is one of the Museum’s most popular pieces. Curry’s work exposes the growing disillusionment of Americans in the late 1930s. The exuberance of a parade is turned into a haunting depiction of soldiers striding to their fate. The central couple is full of hope, but the skeletal face of the young man, and those around him, evokes a feeling of dread. The grief of the woman in the foreground is juxtaposed with the joyful innocence of young boys grabbing streamers. Parade to War, Allegory captures the complex emotions involved with communities sending their sons off to war.
Curry’s painting is currently on loan to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for an exhibition titled World War I and American Art, a major exhibition exploring how war shapes art and culture in its wake. These pieces show the impact the war had on American artists and how it influenced their opinions and perceptions in their own lives. These artists played an essential role in narrating the war and America’s growing involvement. They not only documented the experiences of the soldiers and relief workers, but influenced public opinion and offered differing perspectives. The original sketch of Parade to War, Allegory is still on display in the newly-renovated Lane Gallery.
World War I and American Art represents the various stages of war and the larger meaning behind it. It memorializes those that were lost and the harsh realities of war, no matter the rationalization. These works may have been created nearly a century ago, but the images and emotions still resonate with many Americans. World War I and American Art will be on display at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts through April 9, 2017, then will travel to the New York Historical Society from May 26 through September 3, 2017 and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts from October 6, 2017 through January 28, 2018.
The Cummer Museum is commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I with Heroes & Battlefields: World War I Prints by James McBey in the Millner Gallery, opening December 17.