ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

'American Gothic' Artist Grant Wood

Updated on September 9, 2014

Grant Wood - American Artist

Grant Wood may not be the best known American artist in history, however his iconic creation American Gothic is certainly on of the best known pieces of American artwork ever. Wood was a simple and humble man from Iowa, who enjoyed teaching and lecturing on the topic of painting and art. Grant Wood died at the age of 50 in 1942, and although none of his other paintings gained him the accolades that American Gothic did, he will always hold a important piece of art history.

U. S. Government public domain photo courtesy

Wood Quote

"All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." - Grant WoodQuote via screenwritingfromiowa

Brief Grant Wood Bio

When Grant Wood was still a young boy, his family relocated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after his father died in 1901. Grant soon began to work in a local metal shop as an apprentice. After his high school graduation, Grant began attending an art school in Minneapolis in 1910, and returned a year later to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. In 1913 he enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and did some work as a silversmith.

In the 1920s, Grant made four trips to Europe, where he studied many styles of painting, especially impressionism and post-impressionism. But it was the work of the fifteenth-century Flemish artist Jan Van Eyck that influenced him to take on the clarity of this new technique and to incorporate it in his new works. From 1924 to 1935 Wood lived in the loft of a carriage house that he turned into his personal studio at "5 Turner Alley" (the studio had no address until Wood made one up himself). In 1932, Wood helped launch the Stone City Art Colony to assist artists in getting through the Great Depression. He emerged a big supporter of regionalism, speaking throughout the U.S. on the genre.

In 1934, Grant became a painting instructor in the School of Art at the University of Iowa. During that period, he oversaw mural painting projects, tought students, produced a variety of his own works, and became a integral part of the University's cultural community. On February 12, 1942, one day before his 51st birthday, Wood died at the university hospital of liver cancer.

The estate of Grant Wood went to his sister, Nan, the woman portrayed in American Gothic. When she passed away in 1990, her entire estate, along with Wood's personal mementos and much of his artwork, became the property of the Figge Art Museum in the Iowa town of Davenport.

Quick Question

Did you know that Grant Wood was the American Gothic artist?

See results

In 1930, Wood noticed a small white house built in the Carpenter Gothic architectural style in Eldon, Iowa. Wood decided to paint the house along with the kind of people he thought would live in the home. He recruited his sister Nan to model the woman, dressing her in a colonial print apron mimicking 19th century Americana. The man is Wood's dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The tri-pronged hay fork is also seen in the stitching of the man's overalls and in the Gothic window of the house. Each aspect was painted individually, and the models sat apart and never actually stood in front of the home.

The Painting was initially shown in 1930 at the Chicago's Art Institute. It won a $300 prize and made news stories across the nation, bringing Wood instant fame. Since then, it has been copied and satirized endlessly for cartoons and advertisements.

Many art critics had positive opinions about the artwork, and most deduced the painting was meant to be a satire of rural Americana. It was viewed as part of the trend toward an increasingly critical depictions of small-town America. Grant largely downplayed this interpretation, and with the Great Depression now in full force, the work came to be the iconic depiction of the strong-willed American pioneer spirit.

Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia

january grant wood
january grant wood


Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia

The Iowa State Quarter

The Iowa quarter design features a one-room schoolhouse with a teacher and students planting a tree, and the inscriptions "Foundation in Education" and "Grant Wood." The design is based on Arbor Day, a painting by Grant Wood, who was born near Anamosa, Iowa. He spent his career as a proponent of small-town values, which he celebrated in the iconic images of plain small-town plain folk.

U. S. Government public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia

Spring in the Country--1941

Public domain photo courtesy

Wood was an active painter from an extremely young age until his death, and although he is best known for his paintings, he also worked in ceramics, wood, lithography, ink, metal, and charcoal.

Young Corn--1931

Public domain photo courtesy

Thoughts on Wood? - Let your voice be heard here!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have to be more aware of his work when I visit museums.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 

      4 years ago from New York City

      I've enjoyed Grant Wood's work in museums. He's an original and makes a very clear statement.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      6 years ago

      I love American Gothic and Grant Wood. Thanks for an informative lens, which I'm including on my Iowa Quiz lens (in progress).

    • iijuan12 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      Great lens! I just came across it when looking for resources related to my lens on Iowa for Teachers and Travelers . Liked.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      I remember seeing a Grant Wood mural in the post office while growing up. I'd hate to think that American Gothic is satirical. As one who grew up in Wood's home state, I would want this painting to be respectful of people who live in the Heartland. After all, the people I knew there were such hard-working, good, and decent individuals. Appreciated this opportunity to learn more about Grant Wood. Thank you.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      I've always admired his rural scenes. I'll feature this in What Was Life Like in the 1930s.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      7 years ago

      Very informative lens on Grant Wood. 5* Thanks

    • blue22d profile image


      7 years ago

      I really like The Perfectionist. Something about her smile. Nice lens and good to see Grant Wood appreciated. Squid Angel blessing to you.

    • Demaw profile image


      7 years ago

      Very famous painting. It seemes to depict no nonsense people who despite hard times would continue to persevere.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      I am an Iowan born and raised and forever in my heart although now long gone. I loved this. So much I didn't know about Wood. Thanks and thumbs up!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent article on Grant Wood. As a former midwesterner, I am very familiar with the scenes he depicted. I learned a lot from this article.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I know Grant Wood well - actually worked for a time at Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids. Enjoyed learning more - thanks.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      A very nice lens. As an Iowa native I know plenty about this artist and am also a fan of his work. :)

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      Great lens and good to learn a little more abouit Grant Wood and American Gothic - love that he used his dentist as a model!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)