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Grant Wood: A Life

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  136 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
He claimed to be “the plainest kind of fellow you can find. There isn’t a single thing I’ve done, or experienced,” said Grant Wood, “that’s been even the least bit exciting.”

Wood was one of America’s most famous regionalist painters; to love his work was the equivalent of loving America itself. In his time, he was an “almost mythical figure,” recognized most supremely for
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published January 1st 2010)
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Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
This was a frustrating book for me. Purportedly "A Life" of Grant Wood, I felt at the end like I still didn't know the person Grant Wood; the focus was much more on analyses of the paintings, and on a singular and, to my mind, excessive perspective on them. I suppose we should thank the author for bringing Wood's homosexuality (which apparently "everyone"--except, notably, those closest to him--"knew" about) out of the closet, but the singular focus on an aspect of Wood's life that he went to gr ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it liked it
I am enjoying the book despite some of the issues that make this work almost unacceptable as a proper biography of the painter. First let's start with the good aspects of the book: It is well documented and it is written well, even if it is not particularly exciting. There are some illustrative pictures and a few color plates. It follows a strict chronological order and tries hard to document the inner motivations and influences on the artist.

What I find irksome is the lengths to which Mr, Evan
Dec 28, 2015 added it
Shelves: biography, art
I'm always surprised by the number of art books our local library discards--the extra copies of popular novels, no, but art books? The said art books generally go straight into our departmental collection, although it would be nice if we could get our students to actually use them. This one, however, I read before donating, and I might keep it. I teach Grant Wood's work in brief in several courses and have assigned readings by Wanda Corn and Matthew Baigell, plus have been meaning to read a frie ...more
Nov 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Too much of a focus on analyzing his works. I would have prefered more about him.. I actually found the Epilogue to be one of the best parts.
Mary Sue
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it
In brief....this book wasn't!
As an Iowan, I knew a lot of Grant Wood's paintings and the conflicting opinions of whether Iowans should be flattered or offended. However, I was only vaguely aware of Grant Wood's back ground before reading this. One big surprise to me was the "We Three" years of his life when he lived in close confines with his mother and sister. I found this part of the book interesting. Another thing I learned about was Grant's unexpected marriage to the Sarah Sherman Maxon. Th
Nov 05, 2010 added it
Shelves: biography, art
Evans, R. Tripp. GRANT WOOD: A LIFE. (2010). **. Not knowing the author, I took the time to read his brief bio on the back inside cover. I quote: “...Evans is Professor of Art History at Wheaton College in MA. He is the author of “Romancing the Maya: Mexican Antiquity in the American Imagination, 1820-1915. He received his doctoral degree in the history of art from Yale University and has served as a visiting lecturer at Yale, Wellesley College, and Brown University. He and his partner, Ed Cabra ...more
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
This book completely opened my eyes to Grant Wood. My husband and I (he's my husband on the Iowa side of the Mississippi, my Domestic Partner back home in Chicago) were in Cedar Rapids for a wedding and decided to tuck into Grant Wood's studio for a quick look. Halfway through the tour, learning that Wood was a self-styled interior decorator who lived with his mother and made little gift flowers for his friends out of junk he found in the alley, I whispered to my husband, "Grant Wood was queer!" ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Fascinating biographically. The descriptions/analyses of the paintings were a bit too Freudian for my taste; I don't believe that a painter who had issues with a parent is necessarily putting symbols of that parent (or the parent-child relationship) into his/her paintings.
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was a delightful surprise! I am neither artist nor historian, and yet I found this account of this talented, troubled and trapped American artist to be fascinating. I loved Dr. Evans' intelligent and fluid writing style, his in-depth reporting of the artist's life and circumstances, and the eye-opening analyses of his art. On a logistic level, I appreciated the placement of the images under discussion that allowed for easy, repeated reference and the beautiful color plates that brought ...more
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Regrettably short on biography is this "a life." It is, rather, a reclamation of Wood for Team LGBT. To that end author Evans, an art history prof, offers a provocative exegesis of Wood's surprisingly small oeuvre. Despite being a more-than-willing audience for this kind of Freudian-esque critique I nearly parted company with Evans when I encountered this from his take on Wood's picture Victorian Survival:

Like American Gothic's menacing farmer, the figure in Victorian Survival is a living corpse
Tommy Bat-Blog Brookshire
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've always loved the paintings created by this American Artist but I have never really known that much abut him as a person. So, when I came across this book I knew I HAD to read it. Overall I thought the Author did a great job on it, the high level of his fine research is insane! Plus, I have to give kudos to the book cover's Designer for NOT putting "American Gothic" on the cover, ha! ( You know, the famous painting with the woman & the old man holding a pitchfork, ha! )

The book gently fl
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
The subtitle of this book is, "A Life." R. Tripp Evans should have taken this mission to heart. Instead, the author bends all discussion through the lens of Wood's life as a closeted homosexual. The imagery in his painting is discussed almost exclusively from this perspective, with every matched set of hills becoming a man's up-turned buttocks and numerous phallic symbols identified. At one point, Tripp admits, "Surely, the interpretation [of tiny retreating black figures in 'Parson Weems' Fable ...more
Nov 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't read a lot of art history or biographies, so perhaps I'm not the intended audience for this book. I spent a number of years living in Iowa near Grant Wood's old stomping ground and saw some absolutely fantastic exhibits of his work (and Marvin Cone's) at various times in Cedar Rapids. I was hoping this book would flesh out the story of the man behind the work. It read more like academic chronological recounting of his history. I felt like too much time was spent describing inconsistencie ...more
Jonathan Lopez
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
In 1930, artist Grant Wood achieved sudden national fame with “American Gothic,’’ his iconic painting of a pitchfork-wielding farmer and a stern, black-clad woman posed before a Victorian farmhouse. Hailed by Depression-era newspapers as a symbol of American values and by avant-garde intellectuals as a satire of small-town provincialism, “American Gothic’’ has since become one of the most reproduced and parodied artworks in history — spoofed in political posters for the legalization of marijuana ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Dec 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: jan-feb-2011
In general, critics were pleased to see a new book about Grant Wood, who, despite the popular American Gothic, is often neglected in histories of American or 20th-century art. They agreed that Evans adds to the scholarship on the man and his work. Several critics indicated that that they felt Evans focused too exclusively on Wood's supposed homosexuality in his interpretation of the artist's life and paintings. On the other hand, many critics also forgave this excess by way of noting that this i ...more
Ivan Benedict
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting biography.
The author has searched lots of resources, and
since I am related to the woman who married Wood,
I was especially interested in the material the
author found in her unpublished autobiography.
I learned quite a bit about my relative.
I didn't know that Wood was gay; but the author
(gay himself) makes a good case for it, and finds
evidence even in the Wood's paintings. I will
never again look at "Stone City" in the same way
I have before.
I also had no idea how popular Wood was
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
such potent messages here about how artists use the canvas to emote. sheer delight reading the meaning behind the paintings that grant wood painted thruout his closeted life in the depression era. lush undulating portraits of the farm and silo and corn fields and the hearty souls who worked the land and grant wood's relationship with his mother and sister that compelled him to stay in the heartland where his life was repressed.....but then again maybe he would of not been able to paint if he had ...more
Nov 03, 2010 marked it as to-read
I adore Grant Wood. I became intrigued by this book when it was mentioned in the Des Moines Register Opinion page a few weeks ago. I'm suspicious of the idea that Wood's sexuality actually affected his art any more or less than any other artist's sexuality...I'm more interested in his biography. This book promises to reveal insight that Wood himself worked so hard to hide. I imagine some of that had to translate into his work.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting book, lots of history I wasn't aware of even though I am from Cedar Rapids and my great-grandfather gave Grant Wood the ice wagons he used for his colony in Stone City. I know I will never again look at that George Washington painting in the same way.

However...sometimes a silo is just a silo.
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Heavy on the psychological guesswork, but riveting in a lot of ways. I heard the author read at our local bookstore and knew I would like the book, even though I'd never read a biography of an artist. Wood's talent is astonishing, and this book gave me a much deeper appreciation for him, and for it. How can you live in Iowa City and not know about GW??
Nov 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
I do love reading artist's biographies. That said, this one was OK. I felt the discussion centered on Grant Wood's homosexuality to the point of being overkill. I suppose if some of the writer's concentration on linking every work to homosexual images and desires, it would have been quite a bit shorter! American Gothic! Who knew!
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it
I just absolutely cannot seem to finish this book. I want to like it, yet, for me it gets too bogged down in the personal lives, the who's who among the Regionalists, the who's gay and how we think we know it and who's not. While all of this is important to the story line, it would be an easier pill to swallow if interspersed with more actual analysis of Wood's art.
Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book sets out to straighten out years of misconceptions about Grant Wood's art and life. His sister, friends and former biographers cleaned him up ignoring his drinking, depressions and homosexuality. Consequently they turned him and his art into cartoons. Only recently have they been recognized as dreamscape masterpieces. This book give the "why" of it.
Joan Husmann
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Having grown up in Grant Wood country, I was surprised by some things in his book. I was not aware that he had brothers, nor did I know much more about his marriage than that it was relatively brief. I would have liked to know more about his early career, and less analysis of his work. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Interesting read. A little heavy on the interpretation of his art but maybe the author choose this way to support his main thesis that Wood was a homosexual. It really had no effect on my opinion of his art and I hope others feel the same. I would recommend this to those that like Grant Wood art or want to learn more about him.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book and the look into Grant Woods life. I do think the author over did it when he analyzed some of Grant Woods paintings. It is as if he was trying very hard to convince the reader that Grant Wood was gay. Not every painting had a sexual meaning.
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I liked this, but I think he goes a little too far by reading EVERY Grant Wood painting as either showing his homosexual desires or embodying his complicated childhood. I think sometimes a landscape might just be a landscape. But maybe that's just me.
Andy White
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
An engrossing story. More than anything it is a tragedy about the times when being gay in the US was unthinkable.....especially in the midwest. I agree that there is a little too much analyzing of his work. Sometimes a cow is just a cow. I highly recommend this biography.
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Too much focus on Grant Wood's sexual orientation.
Jonathan Walz
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I learned some things...but to say that the tone is pedantic is an understatement.
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