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Artists Grant Wood
Grant Wood Photo

Grant Wood

American Painter

Movements and Styles: American Regionalism, Social Realism

Born: February 13, 1891 - Anamosa, Iowa

Died: February 12, 1942 - Iowa City, Iowa

Grant Wood Timeline

Quotes

"My early work is the result of going around that very territory where I lived and not seeing it."
Grant Wood
"Technique does not constitute art... Nor is it a vague, fuzzy romantic quality known as "Beauty", remote from the realities of everyday life. It is the depth and intensity of an artist's experience that are the first importance in art."
Grant Wood
"All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow."
Grant Wood
"Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, you all had great moments, but you never tasted the supreme triumph; you were never a farm boy riding in from the fields on a bulging rack of new-mown hay."
Grant Wood
"As I see it, the most effective way to do this is frankly to accept these historical tales for what they are now known to be-folklore- and treat them in such a fashion that the realistic-minded, sophisticated people of our generation accept them... I sincerely hope that this painting will help reawaken interest in the cherry tree tale and other bits of American folklore that are too good to lose."
Grant Wood
"In the house itself, the gable is much lower than in the painting... you can only stand up just barely at the apex."
Grant Wood
"I am willing to go so far as to say that I believe the hope of native American art lies in the development of regional art centers and the competition between them. It seems the one way to the building up of an honestly art-conscious America."
Grant Wood

"I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa."

Synopsis

Hailed as one of America's foremost Regionalist painters in the 1930s, Grant Wood strove to depict archetypal rural subjects that embodied the values of hard work, community, and austerity. Eschewing the idioms of avant-garde European art, Wood depicted his native Midwest with the clarity and precision he observed in Northern Renaissance art and the organic lines and curves of Art Deco design, melding these disparate styles into a uniquely American vision. In painting small town and rural life, Wood gave the American public an idealized vision of itself at a time during the Great Depression when most common, working Americans faced great hardship.

In subsequent decades, his work has been praised and derided by critics and public alike, but his paintings, and in particular American Gothic, remain some of the most iconic, and appropriated, paintings created by an American artist, thus providing Wood with a permanent place in American popular culture.

Key Ideas

Despite his relatively short mature career and his dismissal by important critics and scholars in the 1940s, Grant Wood endures as one of America's most popular artists, who painted quintessentially American scenes. His adherence to realism coupled with highly complex formal compositions and slightly strange perspectives draws viewers into a world that is not always what one expects. While many are happy to find depictions of a bucolic America, many also revel in the strangeness and subtle criticality that Wood presents.
After the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression, American artists turned their efforts to creating a particular strain of American art that embodied patriotic values that hearkened back to an earlier time. Nostalgic and romantic, Regionalism pictured an American society devoted to productive labor and tightknit communities. Along with John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood depicted stalwart Midwestern types that embodied this idealized America.
While most famously known for his paintings, which garnered immediate national attention, Wood also worked in decorative arts, jewelry design, and illustration. He did so in part to make much-needed money for his family, but he was also committed to creating a vibrant artistic culture in small-town Iowa that was not beholden to larger metropolises such as Chicago and New York.
Wood's reputation has never been steady. He endeared himself to Midwesterners, who saw themselves portrayed in a positive light, but Easterners tended to dismiss him because of his purported sentimental, old-fashioned style. More recent interpretations have detected a subtle critical edge to many of his paintings, suggesting that Wood was not necessarily the booster he was made out to be.
While there were rumors about Wood's homosexuality during his lifetime and after his death, Wood never publicly acknowledged this aspect of his identity, and in fact seemed to live in fear of being exposed. More contemporary scholarship has begun to reexamine Wood's painting in light of his sexuality, excavating, in curator David Ward's words, the "tension and difficulties faced by gay men who stayed behind in Middle America."

Biography

Grant Wood Photo

Childhood

Grant Wood, born in 1891, was the second of Francis Mayville Wood and Hattie Weaver Wood's four children. He spent his early years on a farm in rural Anamosa, Iowa. When he was 10 years old, his father died unexpectedly, and Hattie moved with the four children to Cedar Rapids. Grant and his older brother immediately needed to take odd jobs to help support the family. His childhood on the farm remained an inspiration to him through his artistic career. This timing separated his perspective from other realists: Wood focused on the rosy, mythical memories of boyhood, and a life of simple pleasures in tune with the seasons, rather than the more adult drudgery and economic precariousness that often go hand-in-hand with farming.

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Grant Wood Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Grant Wood
Interactive chart with Grant Wood's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Hans Memling
Albrecht DürerAlbrecht Dürer
Ernest Bachelder
Charles Cumming

Personal Contacts

Thomas Hart BentonThomas Hart Benton
John Steuart CurryJohn Steuart Curry
Marvin Cone
Ed Rowen

Movements

Arts and Crafts MovementArts and Crafts Movement
Art DecoArt Deco
Northern RenaissanceNorthern Renaissance

Influences on Artist
Grant Wood
Grant Wood
Years Worked: 1920 - 1942
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Elizabeth CatlettElizabeth Catlett
Dale Nichols
Aaron Pyle
John Rogers Cox

Personal Contacts

Movements

American RegionalismAmerican Regionalism
Social RealismSocial Realism

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Content compiled and written by Felicia Wivchar

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Felicia Wivchar
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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