"I want to reach everyday people, not just the art critics of the world."
Grant Devolson Wood was born on February 13, 1891 on a farm near Anamosa, Iowa. From a young age Wood wanted to be an artist. He made his first drawing in the farm cellar when he was sent there as punishment. He found a piece of cardboard from a cracker box and sketched a hen sitting on a pile of eggs. When Wood was 10 years old, his father died and the family moved to Cedar Rapids. He continued to develop his artistic skill and won a Crayola coloring contest in the early 1900s, which drove him to pursue a career in art.
The day he graduated from high school, Wood left Cedar Rapids to attend the Arts and Crafts Guild in Minneapolis. After finishing school, he became a professional craftsman in the Guild's shop. Wood left the Guild's shop in 1911 and over the next few years pursued several career ventures. He worked on a farm for the Woitesheck sisters about 30 miles from Cedar Rapids for awhile, and later he obtained a teaching license and taught at a country school.
Developing His Skill
Through his varying careers Wood continued to develop his artistic skills. He established his own jewelry and copper workshop in 1912. Without officially registering he took a life-drawing class at the University of Iowa and spent some time at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1913. Wood entered the military in 1918. He painted camouflage on cannons and in his spare time made extra money by drawing sketches of fellow soldiers.
Travels to Europe
In the summer of 1920 Wood traveled to Europe to study art with friend and fellow artist, Marvin Cone. He studied at the Academie Julien in Paris for a year in 1923. In 1926 he took another trip to France where he experimented with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work.
In 1927 Wood was commissioned to design a stained glass window for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. Wood traveled to Munich to oversee its creation and while there became drawn to the realistic sense of German Gothic painters. This changed his artistic style forever.
Prior to his Munich trip Wood's work reflected the Impressionist style. This style is so different from his later works that most people would not recognize them as his. He called his new style "decorative" (later coined Regionalism) which reflected elements of the German realism, but with simplified elements such as rounded trees and hills, as demonstrated in Young Corn, 1931.
[Photo captions, clockwise from top left, read]
Grant Wood with his painting Arbor Day, ca. 1932-33. Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. John W. Barry. Photographer: John W. Barry. 89.2.3
Grant Wood in France, 1920. Image courtesy of the Grant Wood Archive, Figge Art Museum, Davenport Iowa.
Grant Wood, Young Corn, 1931. Oil on masonite panel, 24 x 29 7/8 in. Collection of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, on loan to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
Copper Kettle, circa 1910s. Image courtesy of the Wood Archive, Figge Art Museum, Davenport Iowa.