John Brown’s body might be a-mouldering in the grave, but his beard lives on. From an era populated by crazy facial hair, fewer beards seem crazier than Brown’s—in large part to this image:
This detail comes from John Steuart Curry’s Tragic Prelude, which hangs in the Kansas state capitol. Fans of 1970’s rock will remember the image from the cover of the self-titled debut album by Kansas.
In the image, Brown’s eyes have all the fire-and-brimstone craziness of an Old Testament prophet. As a result, the painting might look almost cartoonish. Seen full scale, though, it’s quite an impressive work, capturing some of that compelling “X factor” that makes Brown such a riveting personality. It’s chock-full-o symbolism, too, and the painting as a whole tells a pretty interesting story in a pretty interesting way.
The beard, though…. Too bad it looks, to us, a little like the pelt of a dead Muppet.