Grant Wood (1891-1942) - USA Painting of the Week - American Gothic
MONDAY - an artist of the Midwestern USA
Young Corn by Grant Wood
Grant Wood was an American artist who loved his Mid-West homeland.
Fall Plowing by Grant Wood
By painting simple scenes of the land and people he knew best, Grant Wood helped create an important, all-American style of art known as Regionalism.
Arbor Day by Grant Wood
Grant Wood’s paintings show his love for the people and customs of the Midwestern United States. He particularly loved the farmland of Iowa.
Our Painting of the Week is Grant Wood's American Gothic.
TUESDAY - early years
Spring in the Country by Grant Wood
While growing up, he enjoyed feeling the soft, warm soil between his toes as he walked barefoot through the fields. Grant Wood showed an interest in art at a very early age. He often drew pictures with burnt sticks his mother gave him from her stove. Even though Grant drew pictures every chance he got, everyone thought he’d grow up to be a farmer like his father. Grant seemed to enjoy his farm chores, and had his own goats, chickens, ducks and turkeys.
The Appraisal by Grant Wood
Woman With Plant - a portrait of Grant Wood's mother her painted when she was seventy-one years old.
When Grant was ten years old, a very sad thing happened to him. His father died, and his mother found that it was too difficult to keep the farm running. She decided to move her family to the nearby city of Cedar Rapids. It was a hard move for Grant. He missed his farm pets, and felt out of place at the new city school. Some kids even made fun of him. Because of his good sense of humor and his talent for drawing, things eventually got better for Grant. In high school he made friends and was always busy working on projects, like designing scenery for school plays and drawing pictures for the school paper and yearbook.
WEDNESDAY - early career
After he graduated in 1910, Grant did a lot of different things. He took art classes, taught art, made jewelry, learned carpentry, decorated people’s houses and cared for his mother and his sister Nan. He was even able to use his artistic talent when he joined the army during World War 1. His job was to paint camouflage on tanks and cannons.
Stone City, Iowa by Grant Wood
During this time, American art students were often encouraged to study and paint in the style of the great 19th century French Impressionist artists. In 1920, Grant decided to travel to Europe to study artists like Pierre Bonnard, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro. It was after his trip to Germany that Grant found a way to paint that was all his own. He decided to paint the subjects he knew and loved, using some of the simple ideas of the old European masters. Grant realized that scenes of the people and places he knew while growing up were as beautiful and important as anything he had seen in Europe.
THURSDAY - American Gothic (Painting of the Week)
American Gothic by Grant Wood
One day, while Grant Wood was looking for something interesting to paint, he discovered a farmhouse with an unusual window. The arch-shaped window was based on a style of European architecture from the Middle Ages called Gothic architecture. Grant liked the contrast of a European window on an American farmhouse. After he made sketches of the house, Grant looked for just the right people to go with it. He thought his family dentist and his own sister, Nan, would be perfect for the farmer and his daughter. Grant entered American Gothic in a big show at the Art Institute of Chicago, and won the third place prize. People all over America loved the newspaper pictures they saw of it. When Grant Wood painted American Gothic, he was just having fun showing the people he had known all his life. Some people thought Grant was making fun of farmers, while others thought he was honoring them. One reason American Gothic has become so popular is that very often people see something in it that reminds them of themselves.
Many parodies have been created from American Gothic. A parody is copying something in a silly way on purpose.
FRIDAY - the Great Depression and American legends
Haying by Grant Wood
Grant Wood’s paintings became popular during the nation’s hard times of the Great Depression. During that bad time in history, many people lost their jobs and savings. Wood’s paintings of beautiful farmlands and proud, hard-working families reminded people of the good things in their country. Also, people liked Wood’s art because they felt like they could understand it better than some of the new modern art being done.
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Grant Wood
Wood also liked to paint scenes of American heroes, such as George Washington and Paul Revere. He painted Midnight Ride of Paul Revere as he had imagined it as a child with an almost fairytale look. His painting, Parson Weems’ Fable shows the storyteller, Parson Weems, opening a curtain onto the scene of the legend of George Washington never telling a lie about chopping down a cherry tree.
Parson Weems' Fable by Grant Wood
YouTube video - Biography of Grant Wood (4:35 minutes)