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Grant Wood was born on a farm near Anamosa, Iowa on February 13, 1891. After his father’s death in 1901, the Wood family moved to Cedar Rapids where Grant attended school and even at an early age revealed his artistic talent. He and his friend, Marvin Cone, made scenery for plays and drawing for their high school yearbook and both were enthusiastic volunteers at the Cedar Rapids Art Association. On the night of his high school graduation in 1910, Grant Wood boarded a train for Minneapolis where he enrolled in art school. He returned home in 1911 and began teaching in a one-room country school. In 1913, he moved to Chicago to attend the Art Institute and worked in a silversmith shop. Later, after serving in the Army as a camouflage painter, Wood once again returned to Cedar Rapids and taught art in the public schools. Between 1920 and 1928, the artist made four trips to Europe, the first with Marvin Cone, who remained a close friend throughout his life. While abroad, Grant Wood was exposed to current trends in European painting but concentrated on the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles. In this, he was several decades behind European painters but current with most American artists.
Wood’s 1928 trip abroad was to Munich, where he supervised the execution of a large stained glass window he had designed for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. While in Munich, he responded with great enthusiasm to the paintings of the northern Renaissance masters, particularly the works of Hans Memling. He was attracted to the glowing colors, smooth surfaces, carefully defined outlines and decorative repetition of shapes and patterns which characterize the works of these artists. Such elements can be found in his mature works such as Woman with Plant(s) and Young Corn.
In 1932, Grant Wood and others founded the Stone City Art Colony, an art school and artist’s colony near Anamosa, Iowa, His hope was that the artists who participated in the Colony would create artworks expressing the unique character of the Midwest. “A true art expression,” he wrote, “must grow up from the soil itself.”
In 1934, the artist was appointed Director of the PWAP (Public Works of Art Projects) in Iowa. A year later, Wood began teaching at the University of Iowa, an affiliation which continued until his death in 1942. During these same years, Wood also taught and lectured throughout the United States, becoming a spokesman for the concept of Regionalism in art.
Grant Wood is recognized as one of America’s outstanding regional painters. His American Gothic (owned by the Art Institute of Chicago), painted in Cedar Rapids in 1931, is one of the most recognizable images in Western art. He, along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, shaped America’s vision of the Midwestern landscape and the people that inhabit it.
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