This Original 1930’s Print May
still be for Sale
BY BIRTH and training, Grant Wood is a workman, a craftsman who has ap-
plied his inimitable talents to almost every branch of the manual arts from
carpentry to the making of jewelry. Self-supporting in an Iowa town from
the age of ten, he was overworked in his youth, but he contrived somehow to
teach himself to draw and to paint with professional ease.
When he resigned himself to the lot of the artist, he suffered prolonged agonies of cultural
inferiority; and when he went out into the world, a great fear came upon
him—the-fear that he was not proceeding properly, that he had been eternally
contaminated by a raw environment. Four times he went to Europe in search
of something soft and mellow to paint—he had not yet discovered, he says,
“the decorative quality of American newness.”
As late as 1930, save for a few delicately executed portraits, Wood was
bound to the conventions of impressionism; but suddenly, as if by a flash of
revelation, he developed into the designer of original pictures which have no
parallel in modern art.
He painted American Gothic, one of the most de- servedly popular pictures
of the last generation, and found himself famous.
He had not, of course, become a creative painter overnight: he had returned
to the crafts as the technical basis of his art and had yielded, without esthetic
fears, to the early influences that had made him a part of his environment.
Since American Gothic, Wood, a painfully slow and finical workman, has
produced a substantial body of work in landscape and mural decoration,
but his highest attainments are in portraiture and figure painting. Not since
Copley has America seen his equal in the delineation of people, and in subtle
analysis of character and inventive design, he surpasses the Colonial master.
By dealing unreservedly with local psychologies, he has created men and
women who, though rooted in the Iowa soil, belong in the gallery of American
Woman with Plants, slightly darkened by imperfect preservation, is a
portrait of his mother, who was a pioneer woman of infinite forbearance.
As concerns the artist, the work is a devotional picture of the purest type; for
the world at large it is a woman with plants portrayed with the integrity,
methodical planning, impeccable craftsmanship, and love of detail which
Wood, in his European travels, had admired in the Flemish and German
primitives, and which, on his return to his old working habits, he discovered
were the distinguishing qualities of his own American art.
Copyright, 1938, by Grant Wood
From the Cedar Rapids Art Association, Cmlet Rapids, Iona