Grant Wood: 1891-1942 – American Gothic

Born on February 13, 1891, in Anamosa, Iowa, Grant Wood was an American artist best known for his paintings of the rural American Midwest. Wood studied at the State University of Iowa, the Minneapolis School of Design, and the Academie Julian in Paris.  Aside from painting, he worked in a variety of media, including lithography, ink, charcoal, ceramics, metal, wood and found objects.

In the 1920s Wood traveled to Europe four times, visiting Paris, Italy, and Germany. He was impressed by the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement in Germany as well as the primitive Flemish and German painters. Specifically, he admired their depiction of mythological and biblical stories in contemporary costumes and settings, making them relevant to the viewer. Wood then applied these ideas in his own paintings of ordinary life.

Wood first gained recognition 1930, when his painting “American Gothic” won a medal from the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting received a great deal of public and critical attention and Wood quickly became known across the  United States. In 1934 he was hailed by Time Magazine as the “chief philosopher” of Regionalism.

“American Gothic” depicts a farmer and his spinster daughter posing before their house, whose gabled window and tracery, in the American gothic style, inspired the painting’s title. The models were actually Grant’s sister Nan and their dentist. Wood was accused of creating this work as a satire on the intolerance and rigidity that the insular nature of rural life can produce; he denied the accusation. American Gothic is an image that epitomizes the Puritan ethic and virtues that he believed dignified the Midwestern character.”

In 1932, Wood helped found the Stone City Art Colony near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to help artists get through the Great Depression. He became a great advocate of Regionalism,  and gave lectures throughout the United States on this art movement.

Wood taught painting at the University of Iowa’s School of Art from 1934. During that time, he continued to produce his own works as well as supervising mural painting projects, and mentoring students.

Grant Wood died of liver cancer on February 12, 1942 – the day before his 51st birthday.

Related Books:
Grant Wood’s Studio: Birthplace Of American Gothic

Grant Wood

Renegade Regionalists: The Modern Independence of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry

Sources: Art Institute of Chicago, Met Museum, Wikipedia,

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