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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This article is about Arbor Day by Grant Wood. It is a painting that has been reproduced in the United States on postcards, stickers and posters for many decades. The painting depicts an old farmhouse and maple trees against a clear blue sky.

You can see snow on the ground in the background of this work, creating an idyllic feeling to contrast with its stark colour scheme. The theme of this artwork is winter. This piece was created in oils as part of his series American Landscapes. Arbor Day was painted in 1930 when Grant Wood was only 32 years old. It is currently in the Art Institute of Chicago collection and part of a bigger exhibition that celebrates "American Icons: Legendary Paintings and Their Stories", running until March 27, 2013.

This painting's title comes from the celebration of Arbor Day, an annual holiday that first started in Nebraska on April 10, 1872. The date of this event is chosen because it marks the last frost date in this area of America. This holiday was created to focus on planting new trees in the area. This painting uses muted colours, giving a laid back tone to the American Scene. The colours used in this artwork are of a similar family: a cool, blue and green combination with hints of pale yellow. These earth tones make the work appear very rustic and represent the countryside side of America. This painting is very simplistic, with few details visible; this also makes the painting appear quite rustic.

The composition of this artwork is symmetrical; there are lots of strips dividing the picture in two, and you can see the same tree mirrored in both halves of the image. The artist used very large shapes to create this composition, and the use of lots of negative space (the white background) adds to this effect. The title of this artwork is placed neatly in the top right corner. The painting depicts a farmhouse in the middle of a snow-covered landscape. There is a path down to a small pond surrounded by trees (In the middle right of the picture).

A series of trees are visible on the left side of the painting, which leads up to a house. One bare tree on this path, hinting at how cold it looks. The work is painted as a mirror image, as the house and pond are shown in reverse. The perspective of this artwork has a vanishing point on the left-hand side of the painting, where everything from there on looks smaller. It's possible to see a path leading up to what looks like an old farmhouse in the distance.