Grant Wood, Biography

Grant Wood was born just 4 miles east of Anamosa, Iowa on February 13, 1891. He is best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest. In particular one of the most famous paintings in American art, “American Gothic” 1930. The woman portrayed in this painting is his sister Nan Wood Graham. It was first exhibited in 1930 at the Art Institute of Chicago, where it is still located.

Woods family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa after his father died in 1901. Shortly after that he began as an apprentice in a local metal shop. After graduation from Washington High School, he enrolled in an art school in Minneapolis in 1910 and returned a year later to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. In 1913 he enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and performed some work as a silversmith. From 1920 to 1928 he made four trips to Europe. While there he studied many styles of painting, in particular Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. But the works of the 15th century Flemish artist Jan van Eyck that influenced him the most and prompted him to take on the clarity of this new technique and to incorporate it in his new works. From 1924 to 1935 he lived in the loft of a carriage house that he turned into his personal studio. The house had no address so Wood made one up (5 Turner Alley).

In 1932, he helped found the Stone City Art Colony near his hometown to help artists get through the Great depression. He became a great proponent of regionalism in the arts, lecturing throughout the country on the topic. Wood taught painting at the University of Iowa’s School of Art from 1934 to 1941. During that time, he supervised mural painting projects, mentored students, produced a variety of his own paintings and became an important part of the University’s cultural community.

On February 12, 1942, only one day before his 51st birthday, Wood died at the University hospital of pancreatic cancer.