Cedar Rapids: Iowa City Is True ‘American Gothic’ | trip

By Jim Winnerman Especially for the postal delivery

Grant Wood invited me to Cedar Rapids. Kind of. Actually, he died in 1942 at the age of 50, before I was born. But his iconic “American Gothic” painting, which most people interpret as an Iowa farmer and his wife, was completed there in 1930, and Wood had always been an artist I admired.

When I discovered that he had painted the famous couple at his studio in Cedar Rapids (the original painting is in the Art Institute of Chicago) and that it was open for tours, and that the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art has a 50 Grant collection Wood had paintings on display, it was the perfect excuse to travel again. At the time, the pandemic seemed to be easing, and it was only a 4 hour drive from St. Louis.

What I didn’t expect in a city of 137,000 was a rich cultural history and a contemporary, state-of-the-art hotel run by students.

The first surprise was to discover that Wood’s art was much more versatile than I had known. The Cedar Rapids Art Museum’s collection of his work includes several pieces from the time he painted in Europe and his style was of an Impressionist, with loose brushwork versus the precision later seen in ‘American Gothic’. There are also examples of his little-known talent as a metalworker, one such example being an ornate fire screen he designed.

Cedar Rapids: Grand Wood's 'Young Corn'

Grant Wood’s “Young Corn” painting is one of Wood’s 50 works on display at the Cedar Rapids Art Museum. This painting was created in 1931 by Wood in his regionalist style for which he is best known.

Barbara Winnerman

Several museum galleries have been devoted to Wood, including one with humorous versions of “American Gothic,” as the well-known image has the distinction of being one of the “most parodied” works of art in history. Included was a painting of the famous peasant couple wearing quarantine masks and rubber gloves, and a roll of toilet paper hanging from the peasant’s pitchfork. ($8; crma.org)


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