Grant Wood

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Grant Wood
Grant Wood.jpg
Self-portrait, 1932
Grant DeVolson Wood

(1891-02-13)February 13, 1891
Anamosa, Iowa, United States
DiedFebruary 12, 1942(1942-02-12) (aged 50)
Iowa City, Iowa, United States
Education School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Known for Painting
Notable work
American Gothic
Movement Regionalism

Grant DeVolson Wood (February 13, 1891 – February 12, 1942) was an American painter best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest, particularly American Gothic (1930), which has become an iconic painting of the 20th century. [1] [2]

Painting Practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

<i>American Gothic</i> Painting by Grant Wood

American Gothic is a 1930 painting by Grant Wood in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood was inspired to paint what is now known as the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa, along with "the kind of people I fancied should live in that house." It depicts a farmer standing beside a woman who has been interpreted to be his sister.

20th century Century

The 20th (twentieth) century was a century that began on January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000. It was the tenth and final century of the 2nd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 1900s which began on January 1, 1900 and ended on December 31, 1999.


Early life

Grant Wood's boyhood home, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, listed as one of the most endangered historic sites in Iowa. Grant wood boyhood home.jpg
Grant Wood's boyhood home, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, listed as one of the most endangered historic sites in Iowa.

Wood was born in rural Iowa, 4 mi (6 km) east of Anamosa, in 1891. His mother moved the family to Cedar Rapids, after his father died in 1901. Soon thereafter, Wood began as an apprentice in a local metal shop. After graduating from Washington High School, Wood enrolled in The Handicraft Guild, an art school run entirely by women in Minneapolis in 1910 (now a prominent artist collective in the city). He is said to have later returned to the Guild to paint American Gothic . A year later, Wood returned to Iowa, where he taught in a rural one-room schoolhouse. [4] In 1913, he enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and performed some work as a silversmith.

Iowa State of the United States of America

Iowa is a state in the Midwestern United States, bordered by the Mississippi River to the east and the Missouri River and Big Sioux River to the west. It is bordered by six states; Wisconsin to the northeast, Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, Nebraska to the west, South Dakota to the northwest and Minnesota to the north.

Anamosa, Iowa City in Iowa, United States

Anamosa is a city in Jones County, Iowa, United States. The population was 5,533 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Jones County.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa City in Iowa, United States

Cedar Rapids is the second-largest city in Iowa and is the county seat of Linn County. The city lies on both banks of the Cedar River, 20 miles (32 km) north of Iowa City and 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Des Moines, the state's capital and largest city. It is a part of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor of Linn, Benton, Cedar, Jones, Johnson, and Washington counties.

From 1922 to 1928, Wood made four trips to Europe, where he studied many styles of painting, especially Impressionism and post-Impressionism. However, it was the work of the 15th-century Flemish artist Jan van Eyck that influenced him to take on the clarity of this technique and to incorporate it in his new works.

Impressionism 19th-century art movement

Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. Impressionism originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s.

Post-Impressionism predominantly French art movement that developed roughly between 1886 and 1905

Post-Impressionism is a predominantly French art movement that developed roughly between 1886 and 1905, from the last Impressionist exhibition to the birth of Fauvism. Post-Impressionism emerged as a reaction against Impressionists' concern for the naturalistic depiction of light and colour. Due to its broad emphasis on abstract qualities or symbolic content, Post-Impressionism encompasses Les Nabis Neo-Impressionism, Symbolism, Cloisonnism, Pont-Aven School, and Synthetism, along with some later Impressionists' work. The movement was led by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat.

Jan van Eyck Flemish painter

Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter active in Bruges. He is one of the founders of Early Netherlandish painting and one of the most significant representatives of Early Northern Renaissance art. The few surviving records of his early life indicate that he was born around 1380–1390, most likely in Maaseik. He took employment in the Hague around 1422, when he was already a master painter with workshop assistants, and employed as painter and valet de chambre with John III the Pitiless, ruler of Holland and Hainaut. He was then employed in Lille as court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy after John's death in 1425, until he moved to Bruges in 1429 where he lived until his death. He was highly regarded by Philip and undertook a number of diplomatic visits abroad, including to Lisbon in 1428 to explore the possibility of a marriage contract between the duke and Isabella of Portugal.


From 1922 to 1935, Wood lived with his mother in the loft of a carriage house in Cedar Rapids, which he turned into his personal studio at "5 Turner Alley" (the studio had no address until Wood made one up). In 1932, Wood helped found the Stone City Art Colony near his hometown to help artists get through the Great Depression. He became a great proponent of regionalism in the arts, [5] lecturing throughout the country on the topic.[ citation needed ] As his classically American image was solidified, his bohemian days in Paris were expunged from his public persona. [6]

The Stone City Art Colony was an art colony founded by Edward Rowan, Adrian Dornbush, and Grant Wood. The colony gathered on the John A. Green Estate in Stone City, Iowa during the summers of 1932 and 1933.

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

Wood was married to Sara Sherman Maxon from 193538. Four years older than Grant, she was born in Iowa in 1887. Friends considered the marriage a mistake for Wood. [7]

Wood taught painting at the University of Iowa's School of Art from 1934 to 1941. During that time, he supervised mural painting projects, mentored students, produced a variety of his own works, and became a key part of the University's cultural community. It is thought that he was a closeted homosexual, and that there was an attempt to fire him because of a relationship with his personal secretary.[ citation needed ] Critic Janet Maslin states that his friends knew him to be "homosexual and a bit facetious in his masquerade as an overall-clad farm boy." [6] University administration dismissed the allegations and Wood would have returned as professor if not for his growing health problems. [8]

University of Iowa public research university in Iowa City, Iowa, United States

The University of Iowa is a public research university in Iowa City, Iowa. Founded in 1847, it is the oldest and the second largest university in the state. The University of Iowa is organized into 11 colleges offering more than 200 areas of study and seven professional degrees.

University of Iowa School of Art and Art History

The University of Iowa School of Art and Art History is a top 10 public art school in the US. The school is part of the University of Iowa located in Iowa City, IA which awards undergraduate and graduate degrees in Art and Art history. The graduate program offers Masters of Arts in Art and Art history, Master of Fine Arts in Art and Doctor of Philosophy in Art history. One of the largest departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School has approximately 650 undergraduate majors, 100 graduate students and 40 faculty and is consistently ranked as one of the top ten public art schools in the US. Faculty and students have included: Grant Wood, Mauricio Lasansky, David Hockney, Elizabeth Catlett, H. W. Janson, Philip Guston, Charles Ray, and Ana Mendieta.

Closeted and in the closet are adjectives for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender etc. (LGBTQ+) people who have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity and aspects thereof, including sexual identity and sexual behavior. It can also be used to describe anyone who is hiding part of their identity because of social pressure.

Death and legacy

The day before his 51st birthday, Wood died at the university hospital of pancreatic cancer. [9] He is buried at Riverside Cemetery, Anamosa, Iowa. [10]

1980 Grant Wood One-Ounce 24-karat Gold Medal 1980 Grant Wood One-Ounce Gold Medal (obv).jpg
1980 Grant Wood One-Ounce 24-karat Gold Medal

When Wood died, his estate went to his sister, Nan Wood Graham, the woman portrayed in American Gothic . When she died in 1990, her estate, along with Wood's personal effects and various works of art, became the property of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.


Wood was an active painter from an extremely young age until his death, and although he is best known for his paintings, he worked in a large number of media, including lithography, ink, charcoal, ceramics, metal, wood and found objects.

2004 Iowa state quarter honoring Grant Wood. Elements depicted include: the Schoolhouse, teacher and students planting a tree, (caption): "Foundation in Education", and Grant Wood Iowa quarter, reverse side, 2004.jpg
2004 Iowa state quarter honoring Grant Wood. Elements depicted include: the Schoolhouse, teacher and students planting a tree, (caption): "Foundation in Education", and Grant Wood

Throughout his life, he hired out his talents to many Iowa-based businesses as a steady source of income. This included painting advertisements, sketching rooms of a mortuary house for promotional flyers and, in one case, designing the corn-themed decor (including chandelier) for the dining room of a hotel. In addition, his 1928 trip to Munich was to oversee the making of the stained glass windows [4] he had designed for a Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. The window was damaged during the 2008 flood and it is currently in the process of restoration. [11] He again returned to Cedar Rapids to teach junior high students after serving in the army as a camouflage painter.


Wood is associated with the American movement of Regionalism, which was primarily situated in the Midwest, and advanced figurative painting of rural American themes in an aggressive rejection of European abstraction. [12]

Wood was one of three artists most associated with the movement. The others, John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton, returned to the Midwest in the 1930s due to Wood's encouragement and assistance with locating teaching positions for them at colleges in Wisconsin and Missouri, respectively. Along with Benton, Curry, and other Regionalist artists, Wood's work was marketed through Associated American Artists in New York for many years. Wood is considered the patron artist of Cedar Rapids, and his childhood country school is depicted on the 2004 Iowa State Quarter.

American Gothic

Grant Wood, American Gothic (1930), Art Institute of Chicago Grant Wood - American Gothic - Google Art Project.jpg
Grant Wood, American Gothic (1930), Art Institute of Chicago

Wood's best known work is his 1930 painting American Gothic, [13] which is also one of the most famous paintings in American art, [12] and one of the few images to reach the status of widely recognised cultural icon, comparable to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch's The Scream . [1]

American Gothic was first exhibited in 1930 at the Art Institute of Chicago, where it is still located. It was given a $300 prize and made news stories country-wide, bringing Wood immediate recognition. Since then, it has been borrowed and satirized endlessly [12] for advertisements and cartoons. [13]

Art critics who had favorable opinions about the painting, such as Gertrude Stein and Christopher Morley, assumed the painting was meant to be a satire of repression and narrow-mindedness of rural small-town life. It was seen as part of the trend toward increasingly critical depictions of rural America, along the lines of such novels as Sherwood Anderson's 1919 Winesburg, Ohio , Sinclair Lewis' 1920 Main Street , and Carl Van Vechten's The Tattooed Countess. [1] [12] Wood rejected this reading of it. [12] With the onset of the Great Depression, it came to be seen as a depiction of steadfast American pioneer spirit. [13] Another reading is that it is an ambiguous fusion of reverence and parody. [12]

Wood's inspiration came from Eldon, southern Iowa, where a cottage designed in the Gothic Revival style with an upper window in the shape of a medieval pointed arch provided the background and also the painting's title. [12] Wood decided to paint the house along with "the kind of people I fancied should live in that house." [1] The painting shows a farmer standing beside his spinster daughter, figures modeled by the artist's sister, Nan (1900–1990), and his dentist. [12] Wood's sister insisted that the painting depicts the farmer's daughter and not wife, disliking suggestions it was the farmer's wife, since that would mean that she looks older than Wood's sister preferred to think of herself. The dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby (1867–1950), was from Cedar Rapids. The woman is dressed in a dark print apron mimicking 19th century Americana with a cameo brooch. The couple are in the traditional roles of men and women, the man's pitchfork symbolizing hard labor.

The compositional severity and detailed technique derive from Northern Renaissance paintings, which Grant had looked at during three visits to Europe; after this he became increasingly aware of the Midwest's own legacy, which also informs the work. It is a key image of Regionalism. [12]

Wood was hired in 1940, along with eight other prominent American artists, to document and interpret dramatic scenes and characters during the production of the film The Long Voyage Home , a cinematic adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's plays. [14]

List of works



See also

Related Research Articles

John Steuart Curry American painter

John Steuart Curry was an American painter whose career spanned the years from 1924 until his death. He was noted for his paintings depicting life in his home state, Kansas. Along with Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, he was hailed as one of the three great painters of American Regionalism of the first half of the twentieth century.

Regionalism (art) art movement

American Regionalism is an American realist modern art movement that included paintings, murals, lithographs, and illustrations depicting realistic scenes of rural and small-town America primarily in the Midwest and Deep South. It arose in the 1930s as a response to the Great Depression, and ended in the 1940s due to the end of World War II and a lack of development within the movement. It reached its height of popularity from 1930 to 1935, as it was widely appreciated for its reassuring images of the American heartland during the Great Depression. Despite major stylistic differences between specific artists, Regionalist art in general was in a relatively conservative and traditionalist style that appealed to popular American sensibilities, while strictly opposing the perceived domination of French art.

Marvin Cone American artist

Marvin Dorwart Cone was an American painter in the regionalist style.

<i>American Gothic</i> House Listed house in Iowa

The American Gothic House, also known as the Dibble House, is a house in Eldon, Iowa, designed in the Carpenter Gothic style with a distinctive upper window. It was the backdrop of the 1930 painting American Gothic by Grant Wood, generally considered Wood's most famous work and among the most recognized paintings in twentieth century American art. Grant Wood, who observed the house only twice in his lifetime, made only an initial sketch of the house—he completed American Gothic at his studio in Cedar Rapids.

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Stone City, Iowa is a 1930 painting by the American artist Grant Wood. It depicts the former boomtown of Stone City, Iowa. It was Wood's first major landscape painting. It is a study of a real place with which Wood was thoroughly familiar, but the landscape has been given fantastical curvy shapes, the trees are ornamental, and the bright surfaces are artificially patterned.

George B. Douglas House house

The George B. Douglas House, which later became known as Turner Mortuary East, is owned today by The History Center, Linn County Historical Society. This historic building located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States. The house was built for Douglas who was a partner in a cereal mill that became the Quaker Oats Company. David Turner bought the property in 1924 and converted the house into a funeral home. He was a patron of regionalist artist Grant Wood, and Turner leased the carriage house to him from 1924 to 1933. Wood used it as his residence, along with his mother, and as a studio. It was here at #5 Turner Alley that he painted two of his most famous paintings, American Gothic (1930) and Stone City (1930). Wood also worked as a decorator when he lived here and designed the interior of the main house when it was converted into a funeral home. His work included two stained glass windows that flank the main entrance. Several Wood paintings also hung in the funeral home.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Fineman, Mia, The Most Famous Farm Couple in the World: Why American Gothic still fascinates., Slate , 8 June 2005
  2. Oxford Index
  3. Preservation Iowa, 2008 Most Endangered Properties Archived January 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  4. 1 2 "Grant Wood", [ unreliable source? ]
  5. "Grant Wood: Biography". CornerHouse Gallery (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Via Archived from the original on October 19, 2006.
  6. 1 2 Maslin, Janet (October 3, 2010). "Behind That Humble Pitchfork, a Complex Artist" (review of R. Tripp Evans, Grant Wood: A Life). The New York Times. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  7. Winslow, Art (October 22, 2010). "Review of R. Tripp Evans, Grant Wood: A Life. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  8. The Chronicle of Higher Education
  9. Deborah Solomon (October 28, 2010). "Gothic American". The New York Times.
  10. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 51786). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  11. [ dead link ]
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Grant Wood", Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  13. 1 2 3 Kendall, Sue M., "Wood, Grant", Oxford Art Online (subscription). Retrieved 14 December 2008.
  14. "Cover Article, American Artist Magazine, September, 1940, pp. 4-14"
  15. "Grant Wood - Fall Plowing". Retrieved 2019-02-05.