"Hoover and the Flood" by John Steuart Curry

John Steuart Curry (1897–1946)
Hoover and the Flood
Oil on panel
37½ x 63 inches
Museum purchase; 1996.009

This painting, commissioned by Life magazine, document the 1927 Mississippi River flood, one of the greatest disasters to strike the South. The painting depicts then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover on the right side of the composition, flanked by officials and a newsreel camera crew. Red Cross nurses work in the foreground below him. In the center of the painting, a bearded black male figure raises his hands and arms to heaven. Below him a mother and her child, presented in the pose of a Madonna and child, site before a crowd of refugees who are nestled near a crowded relief boat. Tilting utility poles, straining farm animals, a steaming river boat, Red Cross relief tents, and dramatic patterns of clouds and light contribute to the monumental effect of this painting.

John Steuart Curry was a leading artist of the regionalist movement in American art during the 1930s and early 1940s that concentrated on realistic depiction of everyday scenes from the American Midwest and Deep South. Regionalists sought to establish a genuinely American art by the use of American subject matter.