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 Grant Wood  (1891 - 1942)

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Lived/Active: Iowa      Known for: regional scene painter, genre-portrait, landscape

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Grant Wood
from Auction House Records.
Spring Plowing
© Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY See Details
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of the major American Regionalist painters along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa, and spent his childhood in Cedar Rapids.  Unlike Curry and Benton, he never moved East but remained in the Middle West where he found inspiration for his paintings of prosperous farms and people reflecting idealized American values. 

However, his work was set apart from many regionalists in that provoked both laughter and social indignation.  A good example Daughters of Revolution, 1932, depicting the aloof smugness of women who regarded themselves as emblematic of the country's founding values   This painting was a retaliation by Wood against DAR members who had criticized him for completing their window in Germany instead of America.  Much of his satire was good natured and humorous.

For two summers, Wood attended the Minneapolis School of Design and Handicraft and Normal Art as a student of Ernest Batchelder, and he had brief times of study at Iowa State University and the Art Institute of Chicago from 1913 to 1916.  After World War I, he taught high school art in Cedar Rapids.

Asserting that he "had to go to France to appreciate Iowa," he had several trips abroad, and in 1923 enrolled in the Academie Julian in Paris, but he determined to make his life in Iowa because "all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." 

In 1932, he was co-founder of the Stone City Art Colony and Art School and he became director of the Public Works Art Project in Iowa.  He was also an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa.

His work can be divided into two periods, the first being views of Cedar Rapids, other landscapes including scenes of Europe, and a few portraits.  However, in 1928, his work changed when he traveled to Munich to oversee the making of a stained-glass window for the Cedar Rapids Veterans Memorial Building commissioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Seeing the severe, austere new style of painting in Germany combined with work from the late Gothic period, he developed a unique new style of his own that treated mid-western subjects with Gothic overtones, satire, and caricature.

In 1930, he produced his first major landscape painting, Stone City, that had exaggerated perspective and unique naive treatment.  From that time, his paintings had a simple innocence and fantasy that transported the viewer into another world, often that of a child. 

He also did many murals and a few lithographs, completing nineteen between 1937 and 1942, the year he died of cancer at age 50 in Iowa City.

Sources include:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
It has been established that artists Charles P. Kilgore and Orrin A. White served as US Army camoufleurs in Washington DC during World War I. But it is not commonly known that they were friends of and served in the same camouflage unit as Regionalist painter Grant Wood. Years after the war, in 1933, the three artists exhibited together at Younkers Department Store in Des Moines, for which they were described as having "served in the same camouflage squad during the world war." A news clipping is included in a series of scrapbooks,  put together by Nan Wood (the artist's sister), and is viewable online at the Iowa Digital Library's site for the Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection. The source of the news article was not preserved, but it is most likely from the Des Moines Register and Tribune, accompanied by the penciled note "Nov 1933?" The headline reads "3 Will Show Oil Paintings. Iowan's in Exhibit Here Next Week." Wood is the Iowan of course, while Charles P. Kilgore (cited in the article as John Kilgore) is described as being from Chicago and Orrin White from Pasadena.

"Stationed at Washington DC," the text continues, "the three young men were trained to camouflage cannons." There is also a brief paragraph in which Wood describes their camouflage work: "'It was a difficult job,' Mr. Wood recalls. 'They took airplane photographs before and after our work was finished. Grass photographs like velvet, every footstep leaves its mark. We had to dig the hole for the cannon and fix it so that not a mark showed.'"

Submitted by Roy R. Behrens, author of Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009).

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