Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Iowa I Opener: Stone City and Grant Wood

Herbert Hoover, Henry A. Wallace, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Wayne (more on him later in this series), Glenn Miller, and Captain James T. Kirk are among the many Iowans who have achieved greatness. They have one thing in common--their triumphs occurred  many miles and light years from the Hawkeye State.

But painter Grant Wood stuck around.

His American Gothic--the stern farmer with a pitchfork and his wife (or daughter)--is the most recognizable American painting. The ultimate seal of approval is that at least in the United States, it's the most parodied piece of art--even more so than Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

Click on any image to make it larger.

As I wrote in my previous post, Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa in 1892, but grew up in the much larger Cedar Rapids. He had a studio there, 5 Turner Alley, from 1924 until 1935. And Wood was a founder of the Stone City Art Colony, which existed from 1933 until the following year. The effects of the Great Depression, which hit Iowa hard, hurt the colony, as did Wood's acceptance of a professorship at the University of Iowa in 1934.

Tuition at the colony was $36 for a eight week course, dormitory lodging was $1.50 per week.

Wood remained at that post until his death of liver cancer in 1942.

His work is part of the Regionalist movement, a style popular in the 1930s. Other well-known Regionalists were Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri and John Steuart Curry of Kansas. Each man attended Chicago's School of the Art Institute. Yes, the Midwest was on the artistic cutting edge for a while. Are you reading this, coastal snobs?

Up on the top left is Wood's Stone City, which was painted in 1930, the same year as American Gothic. On the right is a less impressive look at the town, photographed by your humble Midwestern blogger.

As for the town itself, which is just a few miles from Anamosa, it flourished as a limestone quarrying center until the early 20th century. My guess is that besides the beauty of Stone City--and its many limestone buildings--the town was chosen because depressed land values made it affordable.

Next: More Stone City

Related entry:

Happy Birthday to Grant Wood's American Gothic--the painting is in this one

Earlier posts:


Plumwood Road said...

Add to you list jazz great Bix Beiderbecke from Davenport and composer Meredith Willson, from Mason City.

Marathon Pundit said...

Ah yes, Bix. I haven't run it, but many friends of mine have--every July there is a world class road race, the Bix 7 in Davenport, it's run as the same time as the Bix Jazz Festival. I think more people participate in the race then attend the festival.

Bix himself did not lead a healthy runner's lifestyle.