Grant Wood Paintings That Will Make You Love Rural America

Self-Portrait by Grant Wood. Public Domain

Grant Wood is a name that is synonymous with American art, along with the likes of Edward Hopper. His art focused on depicting the rural lives of people in Midwest America, propelling the “Regionalism” art movement where the artists rejected the abstract art of Europe and focused more on the real, tangible, objective art of their region. So we decided to exhibit our favorite Grant Wood paintings and briefly describe why these paintings are our favorite. 

Grant Wood painted more than 100 paintings in his lifetime. All of his paintings have a story to tell with something unique in their composition. But clearly, we cannot list all the 100+ paintings here, so we decided to choose only seven. But before we get into the paintings, let’s talk about Grant Wood briefly. 

Born in Iowa, Grant had a passion not only for painting but for craftsmanship. He studied art at both the University of Iowa and the School of Art Institute in Chicago. He created some simple landscape paintings and sculptures but nothing great. Until…

He took a trip to Europe where he was exposed to European art. Impressionism, Expressionism, and Post-Impressionism art style influenced him. Perhaps what made the biggest impression of the art style of Jan van Eyck. Wood’s portrait shows the clear influence of the Netherlandish Renaissance painter. 

Now let’s look at some of his paintings that are our favorite, and why.

American Gothic by Grant Wood, one of Grant Wood's most famous paintings
American Gothic by Grant Wood.

American Gothic 

A painter creates a painting, but every painter has that one painting that creates him. For Grant Wood, it is American Gothic. The simple yet powerful painting of a father and his daughter standing in front of their house is perhaps the painting that shows American art to the world. American Gothic is the painting representing the art of America.

There is so much to say about this painting that it will need a separate article. The man you see in the painting is Wood’s dentist and the woman (who is the man’s daughter) is Wood’s sister. The old man holding a pitchfork in front of a country house shows the rural life of America perfectly. 

The grave and resolute expression on the face of the man and the slightly confused and distracted appearance of the daughter has made this painting an American icon. There’s realism in the painting, but with the characteristic of Wood’s lighting technique. It is also one of the most parodied paintings in the world, in the league of giants such as The Starry Night, The Scream, and Mona Lisa. 

American Gothic is currently sitting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Stone City, Iowa by Grant Wood.
Stone City, Iowa by Grant Wood.

Stone City Iowa

Stone City Iowa is an interesting painting because of the connection it has with the art style of Wood, regionalism. Stone City is a city in Iowa that was booming and growing rapidly due to the large reserves of limestone and other industrial material. But with the coming of Portland cement, the limestone industry started declining. What has this to do with the painting? 

The painting was done at the time of this decline when the industrial and booming town of Stone City was again turning back into the rural landscape that Wood painted. This transition is captured in the painting, with exaggerated curves in every part of the city. The painting shows the city, getting back to its roots. 

Stone City Iowa painting sits at Joslyn Art Museum, Nebraska.

Daughters of Revolution by Grant Wood
Daughters of Revolution by Grant Wood

Daughters of the American Revolution

Another painting by Grant Wood has an interesting story behind it. Perhaps the most controversial painting by Wood, Daughters of the American Revolution was commissioned to Wood and was to be painted on glass for the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Iowa. But looking at the poor quality of glass, Wood got German glass to paint on. 

As you can guess, using a product from Germany in the 1920s and 30s for Veteran Memorial was not a great idea. People protested it because of the anti-German sentiment present in American society. This caused a delay in the use of this artwork. It was finally dedicated in 1955. 

Apart from the anti-German sentiment, Wood was against the Daughters of Revolution notion. For the people outside America, Daughter of Revolution is a membership only awarded to the female descendants of the people involved in the American Revolution. Grant considered this as a threat to the republic as, according to him, the DAR was trying to establish an aristocracy of birth. This surely is an interesting painting not because of the subject of the painting, but for the controversies. 

Daughters of the American Revolution sit at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere buy Grant Wood
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere buy Grant Wood.

Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Paul Revere was a participant of the American Revolution who is famous for his midnight ride to alert the Colonial Militia about the incoming British Forces before the battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. 

The painting puts the viewers on a high vantage point. We can see the winding road and some buildings. In the distance, a man riding a dark horse. That is Paul Revere and an interesting fact about the painting is the horse he’s sitting on was modeled after a child’s toy horse. 

The painting is the visual dramatization of the actual event, inspired by the literary dramatization of the same event by American poet H.W. Longfellow who wrote the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”. 

Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is placed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Puberty, also called Adolescence
Puberty, also called Adolescence

Puberty, also called Adolescence

Puberty is a painting featuring three fowls and that’s it. There’s hardly any room for the background. Wood wanted the viewers to focus on these three fowls and I know why. Wood wanted to draw our attention to the texture of their skin, the use of color and light in this painting makes it look so Woodesque. Notice how the fowl in the middle looks elongated, very similar to the style of Wood where he creates their vertical stretch in his subjects. Grant wanted to show the mastery over the texture he has with this painting and it shows.

Return to Bohemia by Grant Wood
Return to Bohemia by Grant Wood

Return from Bohemia

Return from Bohemia is the painting that shows the influence of Jan van Eyck in his portraits. This painting can also be considered as his self-portrait since he is sitting and working on a painting while other people are watching him paint.

Bohemia here represents the country of Bohemia is Europe. What makes this painting enter this list is how the faces in this painting are portrayed. The color and light, paired with the dead expression give it the Renaissance effect.

The Sentimental Fold Song by Grant Wood
The Sentimental Fold Song by Grant Wood

Sentimental Folk Song

The Sentimental Folk Song stands out of other Grant Wood paintings because of the style. It is so very different from his other works. This is where Grant showed his expertise in understanding light and bringing out the realism in the painting. One can also see how he played with the dark colors here to show the dramatic effect of light, so much like Caravaggio.

Prices of Grant Wood’s paintings

It is difficult to find the exact prices of his paintings since most of them are in art galleries all around the US. But after some investigation, we were able to extract the prices of some of his artworks. Take a look:

Wood’s painting, Arbor day was sold at $1.37 million US in 1995. After adjusting for inflation, the price in 2021 would be $2.35 million US. 

Another one of his landscape paintings titled Spring Plowing was sold at around $3- $5 US.

While his most famous painting, American Gothic was never sold, at the time of its exhibition, the School of Art Institute Chicago rewarded the painter $300 US for the painting. After adjusting for inflation, the price comes to around $4,300 US.

Another painting termed February is estimated to be worth $1 million US, while American Golfer is priced at around $905,000. These were some of our favorite paintings by Grant Wood. Here are some more artists and their paintings that you should check out. Take a look: