Wood, Grant
American, 1892 - 1942

Biography

Born in Anamosa, Iowa, Grant Wood spent his career painting the landscapes and people of the American Midwest. Wood studied at the Art Institute in 1912 and made several trips to Europe in the 1920s. He went to Munich in 1928 to supervise the manufacture of a stained-glass window he had designed. Inspired by early Flemish paintings in museums he visited, Wood developed and refined his style, characterized by carefully drawn details and clear, strong lines. He was a member of a group of artists known as regionalists, who were part of the American Scene movement of the 1930s. Wood and other artists such as John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton rejected the modern movements of their European colleagues, and instead looked nostalgically to America's past and rural life for inspiration. Their works reflect the strong nationalist spirit of this period in American history. The interest in specific regions of the country also found expression in the fiction of William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, as well as government programs that encouraged local arts and crafts traditions.

Wood not only depicted the farms of his Iowa childhood in his work, but he also painted the farmers, celebrating their enduring, virtuous, and heroic spirit. He could also view them with wit, as in his most famous painting, American Gothic. That portrayal of a farmer and his wife won him national recognition and a bronze medal in 1930 from the Art Institute of Chicago, where it now hangs. The artist died in Iowa City in 1942.

[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art.]