Kansas State Capitol - Online tour - Tragic Prelude
Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry, second floor rotunda, entrance to the east wing
Curry’s interpretation of John Brown and the antislavery movement in Kansas Territory before the Civil War, is considered one of his best murals. Rich in symbolism, the painting depicts John Brown as an important, albeit fanatic man who would kill for his beliefs. In 1859 Brown was hanged for treason after leading a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
The tornado and prairie fires represent the storms of war that gathered and the fires of war that swept the land. The men on either side of Brown symbolize the brother against brother conflict of the Civil War. The two dead men at his feet represent the more than one million soldiers and civilians who were either killed or wounded during the war. Curry’s critics disliked his color scheme and the overall menacing effect of the mural.