Untitled Document

Artist Biography

The spokesman for the Regionalist Movement in American painting, Grant Wood came from a mixture of Victorian and rural beginnings. He was born near Anamosa, Iowa in a town of 2,000 people, twenty-five miles north of Cedar Rapids and spent the first ten years of his life on the family farm. After his father died the family eventually moved to the prosperous city of Cedar Rapids where young Wood developed his artistic career. Although he enrolled in some formal art classes both locally and later abroad in Paris, he was mainly self-taught, mastering carpentry, metalworking, stained glass and sculptural techniques in addition to drawing and painting. Wood could paint in a number of styles from neo-classical to modernist, and used that range to his advantage in the early 1920s. His work mirrored the eclecticism of late 19th century academy students like John La Farge and John Singer Sargent in its array of styles, always relative to the task at hand. One of Wood's biggest influences of the late 1920s was the work of 15th century Flemish painter Han Memling (c.1433-94). In 1928 Wood traveled to Germany to oversee a commission and it was there in Munich's Alte Pinakothek that he first saw and studied the work of Memling. Wood appreciated the subject matter and the realism of the Northern School painters, admiring their sophisticated use of decorative and design elements. This experience ultimately had a great effect on Wood's work to come.

During the early 1930s, Wood narrowed his subject matter to portraits. In 1930, the painting that turned him into a nationally-known artist, American Gothic, was first exhibited in Chicago. Almost overnight his notorierty changed from local to national celebrity as the creator of arguably the most recognizable image in American art history. The faces of the elderly farmer with his spinster daughter have been used for the basis of as many reproductions and parodies as the visage of the Mona Lisa. The paintings that then followed in the wake of that landmark exhibition solidified his position as an important American artist going on to paint some of his best and most famous works through the decade of the thirties and into the forties before his death.

Between the years 1928 to 1942 Wood experienced the height of his mature style for which he is known. While he was doing some of his best work he was also married, divorced, teaching, and receiving numerous honors. As a result of the distractions he was not extremely prolific. Therefore these later paintings are wonderful examples, yet rare and hard to come by as most are held in museum and institutional collections and rarely come up for public sale.