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Grant DeVolson Wood

Birthdate: (50)
Death: February 12, 1942 (50)
Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, United States (pancreatic cancer)
Place of Burial: Anamosa, Jones County, Iowa, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Francis Maryville Wood and Hattie Deette Wood
Ex-husband of Sara Maxon
Brother of Francis Marion Wood; John Clifford Wood and Nan Wood Graham

Managed by: Andrew Quinn Champion
Last Updated:

About Grant Wood

Grant DeVolson Wood (February 13, 1891 – February 12, 1942) was an American painter born four miles (6 km) east of Anamosa, Iowa. He is best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest, particularly the painting American Gothic, an iconic image of the 20th century.

Painter. One of the three leaders of the Regionalist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry. He won fame for his unique depictions of rural life in his native Iowa, as well as for his portraits and playful takes on US history. His painting "American Gothic" (1930) is one of the great iconic images of American art. Grant DeVolson Wood was born on a farm near Anamosa, Jones County, Iowa, and raised in Cedar Rapids, where he first took art lessons. He later attended the Handicraft Guild in Minneapolis and the Chicago Art Institute. During World War I he served stateside as a camouflage artist. His early style was influenced by French Impressionism and from 1923 to 1924 he studied at the Academie Julian in Paris; he then returned to Cedar Rapids and pursued painting while supporting himself as a high school teacher, metalworker, and interior designer. On a visit to Germany in 1928, Wood was deeply impressed by 15th Century German and Flemish paintings, especially those of Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling, and this had a decisive influence on his subsequent work. A portrait of the artist's mother, "Woman with Plants" (1929), is regarded as Wood's stylistic breakthrough, but it was "American Gothic" that put him on the art world map and has kept him there. Alternately interpreted as a hymn to Middle American values or a spoof of them, it caused a sensation when it first appeared at the Art Institute of Chicago and has since been endlessly reproduced and parodied in all kinds of media. From 1934 to 1941 he taught painting at the University of Iowa's School of Art in Iowa City, and served as state director for art projects sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). He died of cancer one day before his 51st birthday. During his Regionalist phase Wood presented himself to the public as a country boy, a painter in overalls who was fond of saying "all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow". This was taken at face value for decades after his death, bolstered by his devotion to his home state, which seemed to suggest a provincial attitude. But his approach to art was much more sophisticated than his critics gave him credit for. Several of his paintings have an ironic or satirical intent, from the ferocious "Daughters of Revolution" (1932) to the more whimsical "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" (1931), "Adolescence" (1933), and "Parson Weems' Fable" (1939). The spirit of the Northern Renaissance is there in his dour, almost photographically realistic portraits, while his Iowan landscapes are modern and sensual, with their geometric compositions, undulating hills and impossibly round trees. Often he combined these elements, with unsettling results. His other important works include "Stone City, Iowa" (1930), "Young Corn" (1931), "Victorian Survival" (1931), "Near Sundown" (1933), "Spring Turning" (1934), "Death on Ridge Road" (1935), and "Haying" (1939). A design based on Wood's "Arbor Day" (1932) was chosen by the US Mint for the Iowa state quarter, issued in 2004.

Bio by: Bobb Edward


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Grant Wood's Timeline

February 13, 1891
February 12, 1942
Age 50
Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, United States
Anamosa, Jones County, Iowa, United States