Grant Wood

(1891 - 1942)

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For information, contact: Alexandra Polemis Vigil, Director, New York, 212-628-9760,

As the country turned its vision inward during the Great Depression, regionalist painting emerged as a popular artistic movement, offering a comforting connection to the past for a deeply insecure and discontent nation.  Grant Wood, the creator of the American icon American Gothic, was one of the foremost regionalist painters of this period, achieving national fame for his scenes of rural Iowa.

Wood spent the first ten years of his life on a farm near the small town of Anamosa, Iowa, before moving with his mother and three siblings to Grand Rapids after the early death of his father.  He won various awards for his art throughout high school and after graduation studied, when he could afford it, at the Minneapolis School of Design and the Chicago Art Institute.  In 1920, and 1923, he traveled to Europe, studying at the Academie Julian in Paris and exhibiting his work in various galleries.  Although he lectured throughout the country and traveled to Europe for exhibitions, Wood stayed rooted to Iowa throughout his life.  He taught art in the Cedar Rapids public schools from 1919 to 1925, and in the 1930s at the University of Iowa.  Through his teaching and extensive lecture tours, Wood championed regionalist thinking in art, criticizing most American artists for looking to Europe for a model.

A versatile artist, Wood was trained in the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement under Ernest Bachelder and practiced jewelry design, architecture, metal working, and painting.  In Grand Rapids during the 1920s, he was the local artisan, working in a variety of styles according to the demands of each particular project.  With the success of American Gothic, in 1930, however, Wood hit upon a style and subject type that was truly his own and in which he would paint for the rest of his life.

Wood’s early memories of the farm provided him with fodder for his famed scenes of country life.  He painted very little of the contemporary countryside or the city in which he lived, preferring instead to depict the days before electricity and tractors.  Such paintings were generally idealized representations, displaying nostalgia for the rural America that was, by 1930, quickly disappearing.