(b nr. Anamosa, Ia., 13 Feb. 1891; d Iowa City, 12 Feb. 1942).
American painter, active mainly in his native state of Iowa. Early in his career he was an artistic jack-of-all-trades. The turning point in his life came when he obtained a commission to make stained-glass windows for the Cedar Rapids Veteran Memorial Building in 1927 and went to Munich to supervise their manufacture the following year. Influenced by the Early Netherlandish paintings he saw there in the Alte Pinakothek (and perhaps also by examples of Neue Sachlichkeit), he abandoned his earlier Impressionist style and began to paint in the meticulous, sharply detailed manner that characterized his mature work (he has been called ‘the Memling of the Midwest’). His subjects were taken mainly from the ordinary people and everyday life of Iowa and he became recognized as one of the leading exponents of Regionalism. He first came to national attention in 1930 when his painting American Gothic won a bronze medal at an exhibition of the Art Institute of Chicago, which now owns the painting. Although at the time it aroused violent controversy and was deplored as an insulting caricature of plain country people, the painting later gained great popularity and is now one of the most familiar and best-loved images in American art. In 1931 Wood introduced an element of humorous fantasy in The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (Met. Mus., New York) and in 1932 he painted his famous satirical picture Daughters of the Revolution (Cincinnati Art Mus.), described as ‘three sour-visaged and repulsive-looking females, represented as disgustingly smug and smirking because of their ancestral claim to be heroes of the American Revolution’. His other work includes some vigorous stylized landscapes, and during the 1930s he supervised several Iowa projects of the Federal Art Project. In 1934 he became assistant professor of fine arts at the University of Iowa.