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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

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Agriculture in Art

Grant Wood

Fall Plowing Fall Plowing, 1931

Grant Wood was an American painter, born in Anamosa, Iowa. He is best known for his paintings of the rural American Midwest. His most famous painting is "American Gothic," a painting of a man and woman standing in front of a farm house with the man holding a pitchfork. Wood was part of the American Regionalist movement. Artists in this movement painted rural American themes in a realistic, or representational, manner and rejected the abstraction of European art which was dominant at the time. Wood was one of three artists usally assocatied with the movement. The others were John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton.

According to the Regionalist philosophy, artists should paint what was around them, what they knew and what they saw. Wood painted the rural landscape themes in his native Iowa, but he didn't paint exactly what he saw. America in the 1930s was in the grips of the Great Depression and the Machine Age. Tractors had become practical and affordable on most farms, but there were no tractors or other machines in Wood's paintings. His landscapes were romanticized rural landscapes of the 19th Century, as was the arrangement of the land he painted. Woods even wore overalls in his studio to identify himself with his own romanticized vision of farm life.

Wood's paintings were romanticized versions of small-town communities, of independently-employed farm families, and of security found in the wealth of farm land. These ideals were all being threatened during the Depression years and the Machine Age. Wood's paintings denied the instability of modern life. This denial, presented as reality, made Grant Wood and Regionalism very popular during a decade of turmoil.

Many of Wood's landscapes are painted from atop a hill or rise, giving the impression of swooping movement. However, the landscapes remain very still. If there is movement, it seems very slow and regular, as in the act of plowing or planting.

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