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Grant Wood – Virtual Tour

Grant Wood

Grant Wood – Virtual Tour

Grant Wood (1891 – 1942) was an American painter best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest.

Virtual Tour – Grant Wood

From 1922 to 1928, Wood made four trips to Europe, where he studied art. He studied Impressionism and post-Impressionism; however, it was the work of Jan van Eyck that influenced him to take on the clarity of this technique.

From 1922 to 1935, Wood lived in Cedar Rapids, where he helped found the Stone City Art Colony to help artists get through the Great Depression.

He became a great proponent of regionalism in the arts. Wood taught painting at the University of Iowa’s School of Art from 1934 to 1941. The day before his 51st birthday, Wood died of pancreatic cancer.

Self-Portrait – Grant Wood

  • Title:               Self-Portrait – Grant Wood
  • Artist:             Grant Wood
  • Year:               1925
  • Medium:         Oil on wood panel
  • Museum:        Figge Art Museum

Highlights Tour – Grant Wood

American Gothic

“American Gothic” by Grant Wood depicts a farmer standing beside a woman. The woman is dressed in a colonial print apron evoking traditional Americana, and the man is holding a pitchfork. 

The inspiration came to Wood in his decision to paint what is known as the American Gothic House, along with”the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.”

The man’s pitchfork symbolized hard labor, and with the onset of the Great Depression, this painting came to be seen as a depiction of the steadfast American pioneer spirit.

Wood’s inspiration came from a cottage designed in the Gothic Revival style with an upper window in the shape of a medieval pointed arch, which provided the painting’s title. 

Several elements in the picture reinforce the vertical associated with Gothic architecture, including the three-pronged pitchfork and the stitching of the man’s overalls.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

“The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Grant Wood depicts the American patriot Paul Revere during his midnight ride on April 18, 1775. From a bird’s-eye view, the composition shows Revere on horseback racing through a colonial town square in Massachusetts.

The subject was inspired by the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem is spoken by the Wayside Inn landlord and tells a partly fictionalized story of Paul Revere.

In the poem, Revere tells a friend to prepare signal lanterns in the Old North Church, Boston, to inform him whether the British will attack by land or sea.

He would await the signal across the river in Charlestown and be ready to spread the alarm throughout Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

The unnamed friend climbs up the steeple and soon sets up two signal lanterns, informing Revere that the British are coming by sea. Revere rides his horse through Medford, Lexington, and Concord to warn the patriots.

Despite the work’s historical subject matter, Wood did not attempt to depict the scene with visual accuracy. The perspective is from a high altitude as Revere rides through a brightly lit Lexington, Massachusetts.

Daughters of Revolution

“Daughters of Revolution” by Grant Wood is a satirical portrait of three women from the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

Wood disliked the DAR’s attitude and viewed the DAR as trying to set up an aristocracy of birth in a Republic. 

To make his satirical point, his composition included the famous painting of George Washington that had been painted by a German American artist.

The Kunsthalle Bremen acquired the original version of this painting, an art museum in Bremen, Germany.

Wood depicted his mother’s clothing on the models in his portrait and included a lace collar and amber pin he bought for her in Germany.


“Self-Portrait” by Grant Wood depicts the artist in front of an Iowa landscape with corn shocks and a windmill, representing rural Iowa.

Wood’s self-portrait is an image built up of oil glazes on wood panel-a method used by northern European and Renaissance masters.

It also incorporates the technique of pointillism, made popular by Seurat reflecting the artist’s formative experiences in Europe and where he was heavily influenced by European art.

Before his trip to Munich in 1928, portrait painting was relatively unimportant to Wood, but after studying Northern European paintings, he began to use various fifteenth-century stylistic techniques.

Sentimental Ballad

“Sentimental Ballad” by Grant Wood, depicts a group of singing men in a bar and represents a scene from a firm created in 1940 called  “The Long Voyage Home,” directed by John Ford.

The painting was commissioned by the film producer for the marketing of a film.  Nine popular artists were commissioned, and the artists were invited to visit the set of the film for several weeks to paint a motif from the upcoming film.

Wood’s painting illustrates a scene towards the end of the film, and features, from left to right, the actors John Qualen, John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald, Thomas Mitchell, Joe Sawyer, David Hughes, and Jack Pennick. 

To create this highly detailed work, Wood painted from photographs and film stills. While he changed the composition slightly from the actual scene, his low vantage point reproduces the movie audience’s view.

Parson Weems’ Fable

“Parson Weems’ Fable” by Grant Wood depicts the folktale of young George Washington and the cherry tree to remind the people of America about the integrity of the nation’s first President.

The composition shows Parson Weems, the fable’s author, pulling back the curtain as he points to a six-year-old Washington.

George Washington is shown holding a hatchet and confessing honestly to his father, Augustine Washington: “I cannot tell a lie; I did it with my little hatchet.”

Wood has humorously used the adult head from Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of the first president for the young boy.

The African Americans in the background are picking cherries, another reminder of the nation’s history.

Grant Wood

Grant Wood

A Virtual Tour of Famous Artists You Should Know

Grant Wood: A collection of works

Grant Wood – American Gothic

Grant Wood

Grant Wood

Grant Wood

The Story behind Great Paintings: Grant Wood – American Gothic


“I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.”
– Grant Wood


Photo Credit: Grant Wood [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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