Gothic Painting Essay

Gothic Painting Essay-14
In 1937, Thomas Craven wrote a far more congratulatory article for Scribner's Magazine, hailing Wood as "one of our most distinguished painters" (16).

In 1937, Thomas Craven wrote a far more congratulatory article for Scribner's Magazine, hailing Wood as "one of our most distinguished painters" (16).

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Life covered Wood's specific paintings, with a two page spread in 1940 for Parson Weems' Fable, and a retrospective following his death in 1942.

His paintings enjoyed a grass-roots popularity throughout his life that transcended place; mid-Westerners seemed to regard him as their own, while the Boston-New York-Chicago crowd appeared to find his paintings a reassuring balm after endless Depression-era bad news from the heartland.

James Sweeney of The New Repubic lambasted Wood for his lack of sensibility to color, "slack compositional sense," "flabby, characterless figures," and "feeble sense of modeling." Sweeney was also the first, but certainly not the last, to characterize Wood's paintings as reminiscent of a "gift-shop atmosphere" (76).

Perhaps the tenacious reviewer's most prophetic statement in the attack is his last: "That Grant Wood should be accepted and celebrated as a representative American painter is of more interest as an economic symptom than as an art event" (77).

Wood died in 1942 and a retrospective show was quickly arranged in Chicago.

With the isolationism and inward-looking of the Depression years behind the United States and the new internationalism of World War II looming, Wood's nationalist vision and vocal denunciation of European artistic traditions made him an easy target for critics looking to score political points.In the Chicago Sun, Dorothy Odenheimer wrote that Wood was simply "a provincial whose vision was restricted in more than a physical sense to the rolling hills of Iowa.He had no taste, no sense of color, no feeling for texture..atmosphere, no smell of the soil, no wind in the air" ("Chicago Critic Attacks Wood's Art").Today, the United States is perhaps more internationally minded that ever before.Grant Wood and all those associated with him in the long crusade for a genuine native expansion in the arts are in eclipse. Art is inexorably wedded to the social and political events of its time, and tody is not the time for Grant Wood and his rugged nationalism." (3) Critics were merciless.There is little terror in the painting because there is little life" (277).He is, she allows, "truly charming," an epithet that would seem to be the kiss of critical death to a serious painter.Like other reviewers of the decade, Craven plays up to Wood's supposed simplicity of nature and artistic intent; he would not, in this time period, be credited with an ability to paint allegorically or to tell complexly layered stories on canvas.Still, Wood's popularity during the 1930's seems to be related deeply to the Depression; whether his paintings were perceived as simplistic and charming or as social commentaries, the landscapes and "gallery of American types" gave a sense of hope and grounding to people around the country during a turbulent time.Art Digest, in late 1942, gleefully hosted "The Grant Wood Controversy", a showdown between eastern critics and letters to the editor from the voices of Wood's popular support.Editor Peyton Boswell drew the lines of battle: "Grant Wood, and his fellow nationalists, did speak the language of their time and place, producing in the process art that had lasting historical value because it was an authentic, if not always great, art. America has been forced by fascist enemies into an all-out war for the democratic way of living, and in that fight most of us realize we are in a global struggle.


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