- Arts and Design
'American Gothic' Artist Grant Wood
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 americanart.si.edu
"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.
Did you know that Grant Wood was the American Gothic artist?
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
Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia
Grant Wood Art Prints
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 justice.gov
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.
More Wood Info
- Grant Wood Art Gallery - Home Page
We are here to help you learn about Grant Wood’s life and paintings, invite you to visit us in Anamosa, IA, the birthplace of Grant Wood....
- Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
Famous for its Grant Wood collection and Studio, the CRMA has more than 5,000 works of art spanning 2,000 years, including works by Marvin Cone, Bertha Jaques, James Swann, Malvina Hoffman, and Mauricio Lasansky. Other strengths include an extensive
- The Art Institute of Chicago: Art Access
Grant Wood's American Gothic caused a stir in 1930 when it was exhibited for the first time at The Art Institute of Chicago and awarded a prize
Public domain photo courtesy USA.gov/johnson-county.com