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    Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables

    Joe Stanfield, our Senior Specialist for Fine Art, visited the Whitney Museum of American Art to view the exhibition, Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables. He comments on the artworks included and offers background on Wood.

    Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables

    Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables by Joe Stanfield

    , 1930

    On March 2, 2018, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City opened its much anticipated exhibition, Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables. While the title piece for the show is Wood’s masterpiece (perhaps the most famous image in the history of American Art), the exhibition enlightens viewers on far more than . It is a comprehensive exhibition spanning Wood’s entire, yet brief, career and details over 100 works in a variety of media including silver, wrought iron, glass, prints, book illustrations, drawings, paintings, and even furniture design.

    Silver Holloware and Flatware, c. 1914

    (upper right), 1925

    , which resides permanently at the Art Institute of Chicago, is an icon of 20th-century American art. When it debuted in 1930, Wood received a great deal of acclaim such that he became a celebrity artist. While his famous image of an Iowa farm couple (modeled by Wood’s sister and his dentist) is part of our cultural fabric, few visitors to the show will likely know details about Wood’s life and early career.

    Wood began as a decorative artist working in the Arts and Crafts style. He was a member of the Kalo Arts and Crafts community and co-founder of the Volund Crafts Shop with Kristoffer Haga. The exhibition starts with examples of hand-wrought sterling silver Volund holloware and flatware as well as chandeliers and mural studies by Wood. The Whitney has arranged Wood’s works chronologically, so after the rooms dedicated to Wood’s decorative material, his early impressionistic paintings follow. These were heavily influenced by his multiple trips to Europe and depict still lives of flowers, interior scenes, and landscapes.

    , 1929

    Even more than the Impressionists, Wood’s oeuvre was critically influenced by his exposure to paintings of the Northern Renaissance. In particular, he sought to emulate the Flemish masters. All of the paintings that are today considered part of Wood’s mature period embody the technical skill, precision, and detail that was epitomized in paintings by artists such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling.

    , 1930

    Wood’s  from 1929 and from 1930 perfectly illustrate the effect that paintings from 15th-century Flanders had on his portraiture with rigid figures set in front of rolling landscapes. This was a common subject for artists in 15th-century Bruges and nearly perfected by Memling, whom Wood studied meticulously.

    , 1931

    Both of these portraits feature subjects with whom Wood was intimately acquainted: the first was his mother and the second his studio assistant. Along with showing Wood’s technical skill that he developed in the 1930s, each work transmits a sense of melancholy that is felt in many of his mature paintings.

    , 1930

    Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables contains several of Wood’s most famous paintings, prints, and drawings. In addition to American Gothic, visitors have a chance to view Wood’s two most recognizable landscapes,  and .

    Anyone looking to experience some of the most visually stunning works created in America in the 1930s should be sure to attend the exhibition. Ultimately, however, the show goes far deeper than the aesthetics of a famous American artist. It helps illuminate that Grant Wood was a very complex and unique individual whose works were influenced by a variety of factors, including his repressed homosexuality, a deep love for his native Iowa, and his nostalgia for an idyllic American era that never existed.

    The exhibition continues at the Whitney Museum of American Art until June 10, 2018. If you would like to learn more about Grant Wood and see some of his works that Toomey & Co. has handled over the years, we invite you to visit his dedicated artist page.

    Grant Wood Artist Event Featured

    Source : toomeyco.com

    Grant Wood: American Gothic And Other Fables

    NEW YORK CITY - Grant Wood has always been a cipher. From the moment he burst onto the mainstream American art scene, his perplexing paintings -1930's "American

    Grant Wood: American Gothic And Other Fables



    “American Gothic,” 1930. Oil on composition board, 30¾ by 25¾ inches. Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection. Photo courtesy Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY. All works are by Grant Wood. ©Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

    By Jessica Skwire Routhier

    NEW YORK CITY – Grant Wood has always been a cipher. From the moment he burst onto the mainstream American art scene, his perplexing paintings -1930’s “American Gothic” being the defining example – have always seemed to require decoding. In an era when painters were increasingly approaching their work as exercises in pure color and form, Wood remained resolutely representational, grounded in the visible world, in ways that seemed outdated to some and intriguingly enigmatic to others. The mythic complexity of Wood’s work is the subject of “Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables” at the Whitney Museum of American Art March 2-June 10.

    Wood, not without some justification, always felt himself to be an outsider to the American art scene. He never studied or lived in New York, which dominated artistic production and criticism at the time. In fact, he resisted suggestions that he should do so to be taken seriously. His background was in decorative crafts and portraiture, considered inferior genres by many Modernists, and his home base remained his native Cedar Rapids, Iowa, throughout his life.

    Nevertheless, compared to other Regionalist artists – and even many hundreds of struggling and now-forgotten New York Modernists – he became the quintessential insider, winning a spot in the Whitney Biennial, a coveted professional membership in the National Academy of Design, a solo show in New York, important federal commissions and a place in Art History 101 books for all time.

    One of the things that made -and makes -Wood’s work so difficult for critics to parse is that it remains a challenge to figure out exactly what he was trying to say about the Midwest. His early works – paintings and decorative arts – seem resolutely celebratory: portraits of apple-cheeked toddlers, public murals celebrating home and harvest and whimsical assemblage-like sculptures that blend bits of farm machinery with reassuring prairie imagery.

    An introductory gallery in the exhibition, painted eggplant purple for a sense of domestic intimacy, features many of Wood’s early decorative pieces, including an irresistible chandelier made for the so-called Iowa Corn Room in a Cedar Rapids Hotel. “I predict the corncob chandelier is going to be the star of the show,” says the Whitney’s Barbara Haskell, the exhibition’s curator, noting that it is fully functional and will be illuminated in the exhibition.

    Works like the corn chandelier were unknown to the major art critics of the time, of course. They were seen only locally and were often made for very specific commissions that determined their aesthetics to a high degree. It was only later, once Wood had become an ineluctable part of the American art world, that some critics and scholars saw such works as representative of unalloyed regional pride and optimism, a kind of prescriptive ideal of Americanness. Such an assessment might just as easily have been levied to praise Wood as to condemn him – there were nearly as many advocating for a home-grown “American” art in the prewar years as there were those championing European Modernism. But in any case, this was a very partial analysis of an art and an artist whose contributions were far too nuanced to simply be set as an anchor on one side of a tug-of-war over the future of American art.

    “[Wood was] not a booster for the Midwest,” Haskell recently observed. “He tried to convince artists to stay in their own region… He was very critical of artists who came to the Midwest and started to paint cows and red barns – that was as dubious as artists going to Paris,” which in fact Grant himself had done, during a short-lived Impressionist phase. “He felt people had to paint what they knew,” Haskell continued. “He didn’t seek to create a national stereotype – it wasn’t until after he died, almost, when the idea [emerged] that he was somehow arguing that only the Midwest was Americanness. There were other people that imposed that stereotype on his work.”

    And in fact, it is not necessary to scratch the surface very much at all to realize that Wood’s mature paintings are far from unambiguously celebratory about either the Midwest or America itself. When “American Gothic” – Wood’s memorable and much-reproduced double portrait of an elderly farmer, pitchfork in hand, and a younger woman standing in front of a peaked-gable farmhouse – garnered the artist unprecedented attention in 1930, America was at the lurching precipice of the Great Depression. Even those for whom the couple seemed to represent a kind of heartland steadfastness in the face of economic collapse – Wood himself described them as “good solid people” – could not deny a grimness and uncertainty in their expressions.

    Source : www.antiquesandthearts.com

    American Gothic

    See the story behind Grant Wood's American Gothic painting, one of the most famous and recognizable works of American 20th-century art.

    American Gothic - The Story Behind Grant Wood's Iconic Painting

    Artwork(s) In Focus, Exhibition Announcements

    December 30, 2017 Elena Martinique

    Grant Wood created one of the most enduring emblems of Americana and perhaps the best-known work of twentieth-century American art.

    You might be familiar with this wife and farmer painting - it is the , an artwork that elevated the artist, who was previously a relatively unknown painter of French-inspired Impressionist landscapes, to the status of instant celebrity when it first debuted at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930.

    Depicting a stern-looking farming couple, this deceptively simple portrait has captured the imagination of the nation, regularly being parodied in pop culture. Despite Wood intending it to be a positive statement about rural American values, the meaning of American Gothic painting has shifted over the years.

    Yet, the story behind its creation and rise to fame makes the painting all the more compelling.

    The celebrated painting will now make a rare voyage from the Art Institute of Chicago on the occasion of the comprehensive Grant Wood retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the first museum showcase in New York since 1983 and only the third survey of his work outside the Midwest since 1935.

    Titled , the exhibition will bring together a full range of Wood’s oeuvre, from his early Arts and Crafts decorative objects and Impressionist oils through his mature paintings, murals, works on paper, and book illustrations.

    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

    The History of American Gothic Painting

    Believing in the cultural superiority of Europe in the beginning of his career, Grant Wood studied the work of the French Impressionists, assimilating the style into his practice. By the late 1920s, however, the painter realized that American art needed to break free from Europe and express the specific character and culture of their own regions.

    Settling in Iowa, he became increasingly drawn to midwestern traditions and culture that he would celebrate in his works. Employing the hard edge precision and meticulous detail to convey a distinctly American style, Wood started painting types rather than individuals, creating universal and timeless storytelling.

    Leaving his works intentionally ambiguous, he created puzzles for the viewers to decipher.

    Visiting Eldon, Iowa in the summer of 1930, the artist was struck by a little white cottage with a single oversized window, created in a style known as Carpenter Gothic. He sketched out the house on an envelope, determined to use it as a backdrop in what would become his most famous painting.

    In , the painter used his sister Nan and his dentist Byron McKeeby as models for a farmer and his daughter, dressing them as what he referred to as .[1] The house, his sister and his dentist were painted in separate sessions.

    Although both of his models were realistically recreated, his sister’s face is somewhat elongated. As Grant Wood himself explained:

    I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house.[2]

    Nan Wood Graham and Dr. Byron McKeeby pose beside American Gothic, via wendycity.com

    A Mysterious Work with Ambiguous Meaning

    The painting depicts a woman dressed in colonial print apron evoking 19th-century Americana and a man holding a pitchfork.

    For the highly detailed and polished style and the rigid frontality of the two figures, it is believed Wood was influenced by Flemish Renaissance art, which he studied during his earlier travels to Europe. Influenced by European traditions, the artist has turned these lessons towards the American landscape.

    He painted a somewhat archaic image, providing a sense of hardworking practical people and a conservative aspect of America. However, despite confronting us directly, the characters of remain difficult to read.

    Over the years, every element of the painting has been mined for meaning, although the artist remained silent on these debates. Ambiguous and multilayered, the American Gothic is imbued with various psychoanalytical, political and historical meanings.

    The farmer painting is both real and symbolic. Placing a man and woman in front of the house, it is believed that Wood refers to the association Americans have with their homes as extensions of themselves, especially in rural America. The plants on the porch of the house, mother-in-law’s tongue and geraniums, are the same plants in his 1929 portrait of his mother .

    Source : www.widewalls.ch

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