Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables at Whitney Museum of American Art, March 2 – June 10, 2018

“Grant Wood (1891–1942) became an overnight celebrity following the debut of American Gothic, his now-iconic portrait of a Midwestern farm couple, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930. Only a year earlier, he had been a relatively unknown painter of French Impressionist–inspired landscapes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His short mature career, from 1930 to 1942, spanned some of the most trying, soul-searching years for the United States, as the country grappled with the aftermath of an economic meltdown and engaged in vigorous, sometimes bitter debates over its core national identity. What emerged as a powerful strain in art and popular culture during this period was a pronounced reverence for the values of community, hard work, and self-reliance that were seen as fundamental to the national character and embodied most fully by America’s small towns and farms. Wood’s farmscapes and portraits epitomized these sentiments. His romanticized depictions of a seemingly more innocent time elevated him into a popular, almost mythic national figure, celebrated for his art and his promotion of Regionalism, the representational style associated with the Midwest that dominated American art during the Depression.

Today, it is clear that the enduring power of Wood’s art owes as much to its mesmerizing psychological ambiguity as to its archetypal Midwestern imagery. An eerie silence and disquiet run throughout his work, complicating its bucolic, elegiac appearance. The tension between his desire to recapture the dreamworld of his childhood and his instincts as a shy, sexually repressed Midwesterner seeped into his art, endowing it with an unsettling solitude and chilling sense of make-believe. Wood’s conflicted relationship with the homeland he professed to adore may be a truer expression of the unresolved tensions in the American experience than he might ever have imagined, more than seventy-five years after his death.” ౼ Introductory Wall Text

Grant Wood, Corn Cob Chandelier for Iowa Corn Room, 1925. Copper, iron, and paint, 94 x 32 x 34 in. (238.8 x 81.3 x 86.4 cm). Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Iowa; gift of John B. Turner II 81.17.3. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph © 2017 Mark Tade

Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930. Oil on composition board, 30 3⁄4 x 25 3⁄4 in. (78 x 65.3 cm). Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection 1930.934. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph courtesy Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY

Grant Wood, Parson Weems’ Fable, 1939. Oil on canvas, 38 3⁄8 x 50 1⁄8 in. (97.5 x 127.3 cm). Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas 1970.43. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Grant Wood, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931. Oil on composition board, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1950. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; courtesy Art Resource, NY

Grant Wood, Boy Milking Cow, 1932. Oil on canvas, cut out and mounted on fiberboard, 71 1⁄4 x 63 1⁄4 in. (181 x 160.7 cm) framed. Coe College, Permanent Art Collection, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; gift of the Eugene C. Eppley Foundation. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph by Mark Tade, 2005

Grant Wood, Saturday Night Bath, 1937. Charcoal on paper, 24 1⁄16 x 26 15⁄16 in. (61.1 x 68.4 cm). Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Dr. Jack Tausend in memory of Mary Nesbit Tausend 2004.1603. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Grant Wood, Spring in Town, 1941. Oil on wood, 26 x 24 1⁄2 in. (66 x 62.2 cm). Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, Indiana 1941.30. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Grant Wood, Spring Turning, 1936. Oil on composition board, 18 1⁄4 x 40 1⁄8 in. (46.4 x 101.9 cm). Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; gift of Barbara B. Millhouse 1991.2.2. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Image courtesy Reynolda House Museum of American Art, affiliated with Wake Forest University

Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables is organized by Barbara Haskell, Curator, with Sarah Humphreville, Senior Curatorial Assistant.

Images courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art.