American "regionalist" painter Grant Wood was best known for his paintings of the rural American Midwest. Born on February 13, 1891 to Quaker parents on a small farm near Anamosa, Iowa, his Midwestern upbringing and experiences would inspire numerous iconic images of small-town plain folk and verdant vistas.
His family moved to Cedar Rapids after the death of his father in 1901. Grant became an apprentice in a local metal shop. He attended the Minneapolis School of Design between 1910 and 1911, and became a professional designer while attending night courses at the University of Iowa and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Early works depicted outdoor scenes that combined a bright Fauve palette and a loose Impressionistic style. Grant Wood traveled through Europe from 1920 to 1928 and spent some time in Paris to study Impressionist art at the Académie Julian. Further studies of Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, and Flemish art led him to abandon Impressionism for a detailed, realistic style of his own.
In 1932, Wood helped found the Stone City art colony near his hometown, a haven for artists during the Great Depression. He lectured across the country about regionalism in the arts, a task that made him an integral part of the University’s cultural community. “Revolt against the City”, a manifesto written by the artist in 1935, focused on bringing back the renaissance of American art which he felt had become too dependent on European culture. He was intent on regrouping regional schools in order to develop a new form of realistic painting.
Although Grant Wood is best known for his paintings influenced by 15th century Flemish masters, he worked in a large number of mediums, including ink, charcoal, ceramics, metal, wood and found objects. His painting ‘American Gothic’ (1930) is one of the most familiar images in 20th century American Art. It represents a couple of farmers standing before a Gothic window that symbolizes the life of pioneers. Painting the people and landscapes of the Midwest was Wood’s way of honoring the “down-home” values he was taught from childhood. He continued to do commercial work by illustrating book jackets through the 1930s, even painting a cover for Time Magazine in 1940.
On February 12, 1942, one day before his 51st birthday, Grant Wood passed away at the University Hospital from pancreatic cancer. The lithograph, ‘February’, created a year before the artist’s death, portrays the dark silhouettes of three horses against a gray sky.