from The New Book of Knowledge®
The American painter Grant Wood was born on a farm near Anamosa, Iowa, on February 13, 1891. When he was only 3 years old, he began to draw pictures of chickens. Farm life fascinated him. Throughout his life it remained his favorite subject. He became a leader in the style of painting known as American regionalism. This style was used to capture the special qualities of rural regions in the United States.
Grant Wood's father died in 1901, and the family moved from the farm to the nearby city of Cedar Rapids. As soon as he graduated from high school, Wood went to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to study at an art school. After three years he enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago and then worked in a crafts shop in that city. In 1916 he returned to Cedar Rapids because his mother had been forced to sell her house to raise money. Wood later taught in a public school to support her. He was never married.
Wood was very thrifty, and by 1920 he had saved enough money for a trip to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian. He returned to Europe three times. In Germany he was inspired by the art movement known as the new realism. He was also attracted to pictures painted by German and Flemish masters of the 1400's and the 1500's. When he returned to Iowa, Wood applied the realism that he admired to his paintings of the people and countryside of his native state.
Wood suddenly became well known in 1930, when his painting American Gothic was exhibited in Chicago. The painting shows a stern father and matronly daughter staring straight out at the viewer. In the background is a house with a window in the Gothic style. The American public was--and is--attracted to the starkness and simplicity of the painting. Some viewers see the picture as true realism. Others think it is a brilliant satire. Wood's other paintings include Woman with Plants, Daughters of Revolution, and Parson Weems' Fable.
In 1934, Wood joined the faculty of the University of Iowa. In his spare time he designed book jackets and did illustrations. He died in Iowa City on February 12, 1942, at the height of his fame.
Reviewed by William H. Gerdts
City University of New York, Graduate School and University Center