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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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Grant Wood was a unique, ambitious character who travelled around Europe in search of the finest art teaching and also helped to bring rural American life to the public's attention.

We have added quotes from his life below, although it was not easy to uncover many. It must be remembered that he was not tracked as much during his lifetime as one might imagine, meaning that many of these quotes would be uncovered at a later date from friends or family members of the artist. Some refer to him as shy, but this is actually more of a reference to his perceived sexuality, which at the time meant privacy away from prying eyes. Many of the quotes from his lifetime would underline his rural lifestyle, connecting perfectly with the style and content of his work. Some of the insights below explain much about his individual paintings as well as his overall philosophy towards his work. He would reflect on some of his views which changed over the course of his life, such as his views on his own nation after living abroad several times. More on this is listed in the biography, but see below also for views from others about the achievements of this important American painter.

Famous Quotes by Grant Wood

Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, you all had great moments, but you never tasted the supreme triumph; you were never a farm boy riding in from the fields on a bulging rack of new-mown hay.

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.

As I see it, the most effective way to do this is frankly to accept these historical tales for what they are now known to be-folklore- and treat them in such a fashion that the realistic-minded, sophisticated people of our generation accept them... I sincerely hope that this painting will help reawaken interest in the cherry tree tale and other bits of American folklore that are too good to lose.

I am willing to go so far as to say that I believe the hope of native American art lies in the development of regional art centers and the competition between them. It seems the one way to the building up of an honestly art-conscious America.

I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.

I finally induced my own maiden sister to pose and had her comb her hair straight down her ears, with a severely plain part in the middle. The next job was to find a man to represent the husband. My quest finally narrowed down to the local dentist, who reluctantly consented to pose. I sent to a Chicago mail-order house for the prim, colonial print apron my sister wears and for the trim, spotless overalls the dentist has on.

Reflecting on his preparation for American Gothic

In the house itself, the gable is much lower than in the painting... you can only stand up just barely at the apex.

My early work is the result of going around that very territory where I lived and not seeing it.

Technique does not constitute art. Nor is it a vague, fuzzy romantic quality known as beauty, remote from the realities of everyday life. It is the depth and intensity of an artist's experience that are the first importance in art.

You can do anything with beer that you can do with wine. Beer is great for basting or marinating meat and fish.

Quotes about Grant Wood by Fellow Artists and Historians

Hailed as one of America's foremost Regionalist painters in the 1930s, Grant Wood strove to depict archetypal rural subjects that embodied the values of hard work, community, and austerity.

Wood is associated with the American movement of Regionalism, which was primarily situated in the Midwest, and advanced figurative painting of rural American themes in an aggressive rejection of European abstraction.


During his early adult years, he scratched out a living by teaching art, but also managed frequent trips to Europe, Paris in particular, where he studied life drawing at the Académie Julien and developed a painting style indebted in equal measure to Impressionism and the Intimism of Bonnard and Vuillard. He was not inclined to seek out the work of Picasso or other, more avant-garde artists: they were not to his taste.


The compositional severity and detailed technique derive from Northern Renaissance paintings, which Grant had looked at during three visits to Europe; after this he became increasingly aware of the Midwest's own legacy, which also informs the work. It is a key image of Regionalism.


While most famously known for his paintings, which garnered immediate national attention, Wood also worked in decorative arts, jewelry design, and illustration. He did so in part to make much-needed money for his family, but he was also committed to creating a vibrant artistic culture in small-town Iowa that was not beholden to larger metropolises such as Chicago and New York.