Kansas State Capitol - Online tour - Tragic Prelude
Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry, second floor rotunda, east wing
To the right of the hall Curry painted the image of conquistadors. Curry depicts Coronado and the Spanish explorers of 1541 with Father Padilla, called the first Christian martyr in the United States. Padilla ministered to American Indians who had grown to love him. Legends say Padilla felt his mission was complete and wanted to move on, he was stoned to death rather than to be allowed to leave.
To the left Curry painted the image of a frontiersman with a buffalo at his feet, while a herd of buffalo can be seen in the back.
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.