One of the major American Regionalist painters along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa, and spent his childhood in Cedar Rapids. Unlike Curry and Benton, he never moved East but remained in the Midwest where he found inspiration for his paintings of prosperous farms and people reflecting idealized American values.
Wood attended the Minneapolis School of Design and Handicraft for two summers and Normal Art School as a student of Ernest Batchelder, and he had brief periods of study at Iowa State University and the Art Institute of Chicago from 1913 to 1916. After World War I, he taught high school art in Cedar Rapids.
Asserting that he “had to go to France to appreciate Iowa,” he had several trips abroad, and in 1923 enrolled in the Academie Julian in Paris, but he determined to make his life in Iowa because “all the really good ideas I’d ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.”
In 1932, he was co-founder of the Stone City Art Colony and Art School and he became director of the Public Works Art Project in Iowa. He was also an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa.
In 1928, Wood’s work changed when he traveled to Munich to oversee the making of a stained-glass window for the Cedar Rapids Veterans Memorial Building commissioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Seeing the severe, austere new style of painting in Germany combined with work from the late Gothic period, he developed a unique new style of his own that treated mid-western subjects with Gothic overtones, satire, and caricature, such as his 1930 painting, American Gothic.