For some reason, I'm thinking about Grant Wood this morning. Perhaps it's the way the light is falling on the slope of lawn outside my window, or the low rumble of farm machinery moving through the fields down the road in the first haying of summer, or maybe it's just the summer itself, with its green heat and thunderstorms in the night, that's bringing him to mind.
He's been one of my favorite artists for many years, going back to the mid-1980's when a retrospective of his work was making the rounds and getting a lot of press. I had known about his iconic painting, "American Gothic," forever, it seems, but becoming aware of his oeuvre made my appreciation of him run even deeper. There's something about the rolling hills and his somewhat idealistic vision of mid-western farm life that appeals to me.
He was born near Anamosa, Iowa, in the late 1800's, living on a farm during his early years. In his formative years as an artist, he lived a rather Bohemian lifestyle in Europe, studying art and discovering the direction towards which he wanted his work to develop.
He began to realize that for all Europe offered, there was incredible value and beauty in the place he was born. And so, he returned to his roots, this rural beginning. In doing so, he became a vital aspect to Regionalism as an art form, and helped to found the Stone City Art Colony during the Depression. He has been quoted as saying, "I realized that all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow."
While familiarizing myself again with his story, I came across a website I found very appealing which gives an interesting account of his life, along with information on the art colony and a gallery showing some of his paintings. He identified strongly with his roots, adopting the habit of wearing overalls, often depicted as the quintessential garb of a farmer, even painting his self-portrait in them. One of the bits of information I found interesting was that in later years he painted his self-portraits with a v-necked shirt, replacing the overalls, perhaps in an attempt to be viewed as a more universal artist rather than a regionalist.
I think for most artists there's a need to not be pigeon-holed, but remain free to express themselves in whatever way they feel moved to do so. That might best be expressed in still life, or in portraits, perhaps even in a more abstract vision of life.
Grant Wood found himself in all of these, but it's his rounded, rolling views of the land that he has become most well-known for, and for that I'm glad. I like them.
If you'd like to check out that website: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma98/haven/wood/home.html
I didn't recognize the name until the last photo...then I knew exactly who he was. However, didn't know he had painted all the others; love the rolling farmlands; reminds me of my grandparents farm. I also like the woman sitting looking out the window.
thanks so much for sharing!
We too have only really known of Grant Wood through his iconic work 'American Gothic' and have been most interested in this post to see more of his work and to learn more of his background. Like you, we find the paintings of the countryside so very appealing, rather reminding us of the rolling South Downs of SE England.
Grant Wood's work is very powerful in the way it can convey a sense of place and capture the characters who inhabit that world. Its slight surrealist quality adds drama to the scene and one is left to wonder what is really going on.
I didn't know anything about Grant Wood until you wrote this and showed all those wonderful pictures of the "fat" land. And of course everyone has seen "American Gothic," I didn't know it was him! Thank you for expanding my horizons! :-)ReplyDelete
One of America's greatest artists. I think his "American Gothic" painting won him a $300 prize. It also had him world famous. The farm couple depicted in the painting is NOT a husband and a wife. It is a father with his spinster daughter. The gal who modeled for the painting was actually Grant Wood's sister, Nan Wood.ReplyDelete
Tracy, I like that portrait, too. It reminds me of someone I would have grown up around, an aunt perhaps. I'm glad to be able to introduce to you his other work.ReplyDelete
Jane and Lance, I'm certain his life held a fair share of drama, perhaps More than his fair share, as he was a closeted homosexual in Iowa during some pretty stultifying years, culturally speaking.
So glad you had a chance to see his work outside of American Gothic.
DJan, good word, "fat" land. It is sorta roly-poly. And you're most welcome. You've done some expanding of my horizons, as well.
Steven, Yes, it's an interesting story behind that well-known painting. From what I've read on a variety of sites, his sister did not like being seen as the much younger wife of this farmer and she made sure the story of father-daughter was put forth. Either way, she looks terribly unhappy. Thank you so much for visiting.
Two days back at it and linked we are. So interesting how this happens and very fun. This was a wonderful post! I knew so little about Grant Wood's background or works. Other than the obvious. I love those farm scenes. They leave me longing for another Palouse road trip. "Green heat and thunderstorms in the night"...the perfect atmosphere for growing Wood's story. His pastural paintings make me feel safe somehow. HugsReplyDelete
Chris, I've missed you. So glad you're back. Our connection is fun and it's always interesting to see what pops up. Maybe that Palouse trip is percolating... Hugs to you.ReplyDelete
The little bit of taste I do have is questionable at best. But I believe it when he said "I realized that all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.".ReplyDelete
I have always liked his work because being from Iowa it's very easy to relate to. Same way with Minnysota I'm sure. I do have a picture of the house everyone knows but not recent. I enjoyed this post!
Teresa, Every post you have is so well-crafted and beautiful. I like Grant Wood.ReplyDelete
I'll say like Tracy that I didn't recognize him until the last painting with him and the woman ( who's his sister). I like some of his paintings, (esp. nr. 2 and 4) - others look like they are made of sugar - like a cake with marzipan. I think I would be forever hungry if I had one on my wall!
Teresa, I just heard about Winslow Homer. Him I love! It was in Antique Road Show in Britain. A man gone fishing had found a bunch of out-thrown sketches,prints and a water colour, and he had them valued at the ARS. The water colour showed to be a Winslow Homer, and it was worth a lot. I'm not sure, but I think it was 10.000 pounds.
Hey ONE FLY, Your photos show a fine sense of taste. Yes, they do speak to my love of the rural life. The house has been well-kept according to the photos I saw online. Nice window, which is, of course, what caught his eye and set the painting in motion.ReplyDelete
Jack, I so appreciate your words. It's good to hear from you. Best thoughts to you, my friend.ReplyDelete
Grethe, I was just day-dreaming recently about what an incredible treasure it would be to discover a Winslow Homer. What a lucky duck that fellow is.ReplyDelete
I understand what you're saying about sugar-coated. I have always been drawn to that idealism of the rural life. Perhaps my sweet tooth is stronger than it should be... :)
Wonderful post, Teresa, and you've opened the window into Grant Wood for so many who only knew him from American Gothic. Living near Chicago, we have, of course, seen American Gothic as it is part of the Chicago Art Institute. Children around here would at some point go to the Art Institute on a field trip and would see the original. Unfortunately, most don't really learn of his other works. Sigh. I fear for the arts, especially during these economic times, but, that is another story.ReplyDelete
I just love what I find here at your blog.
,Room to Roam. In their youth, artists think they have to travel to find their inspiration, but as they mature most of them realize it was back to their roots when they discovered their talent. An inspirational post.ReplyDelete
PENNY, I have some fear around the arts, as well. Artist friends are struggling to continue. Thank you for your kind words. I have a lot of fun letting these ideas reveal and unfold themselves to me.ReplyDelete
MANZANITA, Perhaps it's the traveling that brings them back. Sometimes, if people don't experience things for themselves, they always wonder.... Thank you.
I love the landscapes best... I love the shadows in them.ReplyDelete
Nice post about a truly American artist. Thanks.
Hello again! It is not advisable to stand up in the middle of the night and begin to do comments in blog-world ! I haven't changed my mind, but I was too quick to condemn! And you were very kind Teresa. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Grant Wood is a fine painter, and he has got two ways of expressing himself, but his landscapes seem to have a double meaning. He does not look as if he's making fun, but you'll never know. He tells a moving story in the painting with his sister, a story about hard work and pioneer life? It is a serious painting, it makes me feel sad. The painting of the house in sunshine is lovely IMO!! I'm awake now!
FARMLADY, I was particularly noticing the shadows in the final landscape I posted, as though a strong presence almost hung over that lower part of the land. Intriguing to me.ReplyDelete
GRETHE, I thought you made a valid point and expressed your true thoughts. Never worry about doing so on my blog. I value your responses very much. I thought his return to Iowa from Europe spoke of his love of the land, but he also worked hard at the persona to match, with his overalls and such, something to which his biographers often allude. He found something that people responded to and that prompted him in a certain direction, it seems. Other painters from that time and from the genre of Regionalism also painted somewhat idealistically. A counterweight to the Depression perhaps?
I'm grateful for your responses whether in the middle of the night or bright light of day! :)
I love Woods' art ! :-)ReplyDelete
Apart from the iconic last picture I don't think I've ever come across this artist otherwise.ReplyDelete
The rolling landscapes he painted could almost have been painted in the Shropshire hills, except that our hills are populated by wsheep.
I agree with you that he is an artist well worth exploring. Thank you for introducing me to him.
I too didn't recognize his name till the last painting. I love the quote "I realized that all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." I can identify with that, some of my best ideas come from staring out the window at nature or lying quietly just before I fall asleep.ReplyDelete
Now that I see his other painting of the rounded rolling hills, I almost like those better than his portraits.
PAUL, I'm glad you like him!ReplyDelete
FRIKO, They do look a bit like the photos I've seen of your area, the hills and sections of land. Green, as far as the eye can see.
LINDA, I often get my ideas streaming in very early in the morning. It's always interesting to see what comes through. Yes, I prefer the landscapes, also.
I had never seen his self portrait with the v-neck sweater on...very interesting. I have always really liked the one of the woman looking out the window. I would like to know what she was thinking there. I can't decide if she is annoyed or just very contemplative.ReplyDelete
Hi LadyCat, Due to his change to the v neck later in life, I chose that portrait rather than the overalls. I saw her look as skeptical. Perhaps that's how the folks of Iowa viewed him, with skepticism. I'm conjecturing, of course...ReplyDelete
You Know ,(Apart From "The Famous One") I Have Never Seen His Other Work.ReplyDelete
I Love Him!!!! I Want To Live In His World!!!
Tony! It's a rather nice looking world, isn't it? Soft and rounded and so peaceful. Reality or fantasy? Perhaps a bit of both.ReplyDelete
I've been skulking for too long. I like what you're doing here, and I'm going to pop right over and install you on my petite blog roll. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Thanks for that Teresa. Like Tony (and I suspect like so many people in the UK) all I knew about was American Gothic. But as soon as I saw your first image I thought of that, even though I didn't instantly recognise the name which means that it is quite an original - and quite an unusual - style. Again, like Tony, I love it : the landscapes have something of the feel of West Yorkshire where both Tony and I live.ReplyDelete
MURR, I've been doing some skulking myself. You are such a fine writer, making very cogent points through humor. You've provided more than a few chuckles and snorts, along with some very timely info. Thank You.ReplyDelete
ALAN, You're most welcome. West Yorkshire sounds very appealing. Nice landscape and some fine gents. Thanks for coming by.
Now this was a real education. Although I was familiar with "American Gothic" I had no idea that this artist had so many beautiful paintings. All are just wonderful, and absolutely satisfy my tastes. Thank you so much!ReplyDelete
Wild Bill, It's fun for me to explore these artist lives and I enjoy sharing what I've found. Glad you like them.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the bio, Teresa. Very interesting, indeed.ReplyDelete
Thank you, gigi! Glad you enjoyed it.ReplyDelete