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Grant Wood was an American painter associated with the American Regionalism, best known for his depictions of the rural Midwest. His most famous work, American Gothic, surpassed his own fame, becoming one of the most iconic paintings of the 20th century.
Grant DeVolson Wood was born near the city of Anamosa, in rural Iowa, in 1891. Upon his father's death, the family was forced to move to a larger city, which was Cedar Rapids. There, Wood would have his early education and serve as an apprentice at a local metal shop.
After his graduation from Washington High School, Wood went to Minneapolis in 1910, where he enrolled at The Handicraft Guild, which was an art school entirely run by women. Today, The Handicraft Guild is a rather prominent artist collective in the city of Minneapolis.
Wood returned to Iowa in 1911, working as a teacher at a simple one-room school. By 1913, he was enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as performing some work as a silversmith.
Wood visited Europe four times between 1922 and 1928, and when he was able to study several styles of painting, he was especially drawn to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. However, his most noteworthy European influence would come from Jan van Eyck, the highly praised 15-century Flemish artist.
In 1932, Wood, along with Adrian Dornbush and Edward Rowan, created the Stone City Art Colony, intended to aid fellow artists to get through the Great Depression.
The Great Depression was also the background that would help give birth to the American Regionalism. A movement that often depicted and praised small-town and rural American heartland scenery, usually carrying a reassuring sense of pride midst a dark period.
Wood's best-known painting and also a remarkable example of American Regionalism is American Gothic. The picture became one of the most famous American paintings, as well as reaching astonishing the status of one of the most widely recognized cultural icons, comparable to The Scream, by Edvard Munch, and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
Between 1934 and 1941, Wood taught painting at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History. During this period, Wood played a vital role at the University's cultural community, mentoring students, supervising mural painting projects, as well as producing his own artwork.
Grant Wood died of pancreatic cancer at a relatively young age. He passed away on the day of his 51st birthday at the University's hospital.