Grant Wood was born in Iowa where he spent most of his life. As a young child he loved drawing with charcoal and after graduating from high school he studied art in Minneapolis and Chicago. During World War I he did camouflage work for the Army. Then he became an art teacher. At that point he had already found the essential imagery of his future works: rolling landscapes, folk architecture and farmers. However he still painted in a manner that was not particularly original, and which could be called pseudo-impressionistic. He went to Paris in 1923, but it is, in fact, his stay in Munich in 1928 that really influenced his art. In Germany Wood became fascinated by the work of the Flemish primitives particularly that of Memling and that by the portraiture of Holbein and Durer. From then onwards he painted his native Iowa with deliberate simplicity, clearcut realism, sharp detailing, precise clarity of form, austere poses and staring eyes.
Wood became one of the major figures of Regionalism, a movement which flourished in the 1930s not only in Wood’s Middle West but all over the United States.
In 1930 Wood became very popular with ‘Stone City, Iowa’, the painting of an almost deserted city that had been prosperous in the artist’s youth, before the Depression, and ‘American Gothic’ (opposite) which was highly praised by everybody for its originality and technical quality, except by Iowa farmers who saw in the picture an unfair caricature.
Wood’s later works were also very successful and in 1934 he was appointed assistant professor at the University of Iowa. Along with his teaching career he went on painting both for his own pleasure and for the Roosevelt Administration who wanted to promote art.
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