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John Steuart Curry

Baptism in Kansas

On view
Floor 7



Oil on canvas

Overall: 40 1/4 × 50 1/4in. (102.2 × 127.6 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate


Baptism in Kansas recalls a scene that John Steuart Curry witnessed in 1915 in the devout religious community of his childhood: the local creeks were dried up, and the only suitable site for a full-submersion baptism was a water tank. In the painting, the circle of pious hymn singers, the row of Ford Model-T cars, and the receding prairie provide a counterpoint to the dynamic postures of the preacher and young woman at the moment they begin her submersion. Hovering above the pair, and suggesting a divine presence, is a raven and a dove, the birds that Noah released from the ark after the Flood. When the painting was first exhibited in 1928 at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., critics hailed its assertive portrayal of rural American values, which marked a departure from the urban imagery and abstracted landscapes of contemporary American modernism. Curry’s vision of an idealized American heartland signaled the emergence of Regionalism, the movement that glorified grassroots rural values during the poverty-stricken years of the Great Depression.

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