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Grant Wood In Iowa

Updated on August 19, 2017

Wood's Self Portrait

Wood's self portrait clearly shows his drawing skill and the rural Iowa background from where he came.
Wood's self portrait clearly shows his drawing skill and the rural Iowa background from where he came.

Grant DeVolson Wood

Grant DeVolson Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa in 1891 and spent most of his life within the 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 realistic works of the 15th century painter Jan Van Eyck.

American Gothic

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

Iowa painter sticks to his roots

Upon returning to Iowa, Wood began teaching art at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. 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.

Furthermore, American Gothic brought instant fame to the Iowan artist, making him a spokesman for the Regionalist art movement that would characterize the Great Depression. For Wood, the completion of American Gothic, marked an artistic transition into a more mature period. Ultimately, this final stage of Wood's life would only last until 1942, when his untimely death from cancer took away one of America's most popular painters.


Fall Plowing

This painting, titled Fall Plowing, clearly demonstrates Grant Wood's regionalist and Midwestern style
This painting, titled Fall Plowing, clearly demonstrates Grant Wood's regionalist and Midwestern style | Source

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. Though it should be noted that Grant Wood once said that he “got all his best ideas for painting while milking a cow.” After Wood completed American Gothic in 1931, he became the de facto spokesman for regionalism, which he said that “…regional art rests upon the idea that different sections of the U.S. should compete with one another just as Old World cities competed in the building of Gothic cathedrals."

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.

Wood's Lithographs

This lithograph titled 1937 Honorary Degree is just one of the many Black & white images that Grant wood created during his lifetime.
This lithograph titled 1937 Honorary Degree is just one of the many Black & white images that Grant wood created during his lifetime.

Where To Find Grant Wood Paintings Today?

Since Wood spent most of his life in the Midwest, that is where you will find the majority of Grant wood's artwork. Starting at the top, American Gothic is owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. But if you are going to Chicago just to see the iconic portrait of a farmer and his daughter, better check ahead to make sure that the painting is currently on display.

For the greatest number of Wood's work is best to head to eastern Iowa, where Grant spent most of his life. Best place here is the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, where several paintings, including Woman with Plants, and lithographs are on view. Also of note is the Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque, Iowa. Here, art lovers will find The Appraisal and Victorian Survival.

And finally, the house pictured in American Gothic is located in Eldon, Iowa and open to tours.

Satirical Subject Matter

While still remaining one of America's most popular paintings in its own right, American Gothic is also one the most parodied paintings in art history. Magazines ranging from Mad to Forbes have spoofed the famous painting, as have numerous fine artist and cartoonist. Cartoon characters have also taken the place of the dentist and Grant's sister, who are the real models in American Gothic. Ranging from Mickey Mouse to the Simpsons to the Flintstones, these iconic American creations have also appeared in the famous setting. And as far as presidential portraits go, this memorable pose has pictured every president from Donald Trump to Bill Clinton.

A Few Parodies of American Gothic

Here are a quartet of American Gothic parodies
Here are a quartet of American Gothic parodies

Cedar River in Waterloo

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

Grant Wood In Sixty Seconds

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