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Grant Wood

Grant Wood and His Paintings at Coe: An Artistic Legacy

Grant Wood was born February 13, 1892, to a farm family in Anamosa, Iowa.  He moved with his family to Cedar Rapids when he was ten years old, remaining here for much of his life.  Grant taught in Cedar Rapids at Jackson Junior High and Washington and McKinley High Schools.  Later in life, he was also an Art Professor at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Grant is best known for the paintings American Gothic and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  His younger sister Nan Wood Graham posed for American Gothic, as did Byron McKeeby, a Cedar Rapids dentist.Coe has a substantial collection of Grant Wood works, housed in the Perrine Gallery in Stewart Memorial Library.  The main body of the Grant Wood collection at Coe consists of seven panels: the “Fruits of Iowa,” murals of oil on canvas depicting farm scenes.  The panels were commissioned in 1932 for the coffee shop of the old Montrose Hotel.  When the hotel changed hands in 1956, the “Fruits of Iowa” series was lent to Coe, where they were displayed in the Stewart Memorial Library.  Its original owner, the Eppley Foundation, with the agreement that the college would erect a memorial plaque in the name of Eugene Eppley, later donated the collection of panels to the college in 1976.  On the right side of the gallery, when walking in, can be found three paintings, one each of a man with a basket of corn and two pigs, an oval farm scene, and a woman feeding her chickens.  On the left side, there are paintings of a man with a watermelon, holding a slice, a man milking a brown and white cow, and a woman with fresh vegetables.  Also included in the Eppley collection, but on a different wall, is a basket of fruit.  The value of the Eppley set alone has been appraised in the millions dollars.

The Perrine Gallery features several other Wood works, including two sets of two lithographs for The Pulse, Grant’s high school magazine.  There is a beautiful Japanese-style watercolor of a stork on a window shade, entitled Stork.  Also included in the collection is a charcoal on paper drawing entitled Daughters of Revolution.  The famous oil painting of the same name, for which this was the study, currently resides in Cleveland.

Coe also has "Malnutrition," a 1919 Wood painting of a tall and thin Marvin Cone, Coe Alumnus and Art Professor whose art is also on display in the library.  Grant and Marvin were longtime friends from high school.  Marvin, in turn, then painted Grant, as plump and rosy-cheeked as the Iowa natives Grant depicted, naming the picture "Overstimulation."  Sadly, "Overstimulation" was destroyed in a fire in 1932.

Wood died on February 12, 1942, at 49. Grant Wood was considered a "Regional" artist because he painted scenes from Midwest farming life, but took it to heart in more than one sense; despite much urging from many sources to move to a larger city, like Chicago or New York, his home remained in Iowa.  He summed up his love for farming and the Iowa way of life when he said "All the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow."

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