Did You Know? 1930.

Grant’s sister, Nan Wood Graham, along with Dr. Byron McKeeby pose with Wood’s painting at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in September 1942.

Grant Wood – Iowa’s Iconic Artist – American Gothic.

In August 1930, Grant Wood was driving around the little southeastern town of Eldon, Iowa with a young local painter named John Sharp. Looking for inspiration, he noticed the Dibble House, a small white home built in the Carpenter Gothic architectural style. After obtaining permission from the owners, Wood made a sketch the next day from the front yard.

Upon his return to Cedar Rapids, Grant decided to paint the house along with, in his words, “the kind of people [I] fancied should live in that house.” He recruited his sister, Nan, to be the model for the daughter, dressing her in a colonial print apron mimicking early 20th-century rural Americana. The model for the father was the Wood family’s dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby from Cedar Rapids.

Wood entered the painting in a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago. One judge deemed it a “comic valentine,” but a museum patron persuaded the jury to award the painting the bronze medal and a $300 cash prize. That same patron also persuaded the Institute to buy the painting, and it remains part of the Chicago museum’s collection today.

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