Grant Wood In Iowa

American Gothic

Grant Wood painted American Gothic in 1930
Grant Wood painted American Gothic in 1930 | Source

Kiss Parody of American Gothic

Many groups of organizations have parodied Wood's painting, American Gothic
Many groups of organizations have parodied Wood's painting, American Gothic

Iowa painter sticks to his roots

Grant DeVolson Wood

Grant DeVolson Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa in 1891 and spent most of his life within this eastern-central region of the agricultural state. His art education occurred when he went to Chicago, located over a hundred miles to the east, to study at the Chicago Art Institute. After completing his studies in the Windy City, the young man made several trips to Europe, where he studied impressionistic and post impressionistic paintings. However, his greatest influence came from the works of the 15th century painter Jan Van Eyck.

American Gothic

Upon returning to Iowa, Wood began teaching art at the University of Iowa in Iowa ciry. Here, he produced a striking body of work derived from the rolling farmland community, located near where he lived. Painted in 1930, American Gothic has become one of the most well-known paintings in the world. It is also one of the most parodied paintings around. Today, the original can sometimes be viewed at the Art Institute in Chicago. Besides his famous masterpiece, Wood created a fascinating body of work before dying one day before his 50th birthday. This includes not only other paintings on canvas, but also many black and white and hand-colored lithographs.

Wood's Style

Though often considered part of the American Regionalism that characterized pre-WWII American art, Grant Wood's visual world runs much deeper than just portraying life in and around an Iowa farm. His reduction of the rural landscape to simple patterns and abstract shapes was often used to create a new and profound vision of the Midwestern farm. To get a feeling for both his work and locale where he lived most of his life, a trip to the Waterloo Arts Center located on the banks of the Cedar River in Waterloo will shed more light on the short life of this American artist.

The Waterloo Art Collection

The Waterloo Art Center is located in downtown Waterloo on the banks of the Cedar River. Beside the main art museum, there is a performance center and children's art museum. Also called the Phelps Art Museum, you can visit this wing as long as you are escorting a child. In the children's museum there is a fascinating display about the Iowa native. Fortunately, the presentation is put together in such a way that can be informative to both children and adults.

Wood's Art Works

Also present at the museum is a series of 12 black and white lithographs that clearly illustrate Wood's strange and innovative style. Characterized by an abundance of geometric forms representing the Iowa landscape, these prints take a fascinating and sometimes humorous look at farm landscapes through all four seasons. In addition there are two oil paintings and several hand-colored prints on view in the permanent collection.

On the River

The arts center is well worth a trip just for its serene location along the river. The modern building also holds a large collection of Haitian and Caribbean art, an art cafe and puts up new exhibitions on a regular basis. Outside the museum sits various examples of contemporary sculpture and not far away are the rolling hills and farmland that Grant so gracefully converted to paper and canvas over 70 years ago.

Cedar River in Waterloo

Cedar River as seen from the Waterloo Art Center
Cedar River as seen from the Waterloo Art Center

Iowa farmland today

View of Iowa farm near New Hampton
View of Iowa farm near New Hampton

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