American artist (1892-1942). He was born in Anamosa, Iowa, and lived in Cedar Rapids, Minnesota after his father died in 1901. He studied at the Minneapolis School of Design, the University of Iowa, and the Art Institute of Chicago. After serving in the military, he visited France, Germany, Holland, and Italy, working on his painting and studying German and Dutch primitive painters.

Wood gained fame as one of the painters of "The American Scene", or the school of Regional American Landscape. Along with artists like Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, they painted scenes of American rural life in the tradition of the European masters. Their paintings became popular during the Great Depression, when the rural subjects proved comforting during those times of trouble.

Wood sought to encourage the birth of a renaissance of American art, which he believed was too dependent on European art. He published a manifesto in 1935 called "Revolt against the City", outlining his ideas and calling for a regrouping of regional schools to develop a new form of realistic painting.

Wood painted the people and landscapes of the Midwest in an idealized but often satirical way. One of his best-known works, "Parson Weems' Fable", depicts George Washington as a boy admitting to his father that he has chopped down the cherry tree. However, Parson Weems, the inventor of the tale, is also depicted drawing back a curtain on the scene as if slyly admitting to the falsity of the story. And his "Daughters of the Revolution", painted after he had a quarrel with some ladies in charge of a WWI memorial, depicted distrustful and unattractive women posing in front of Emmanuel Leutz' famous painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware".

Of course, Wood's best known painting -- indeed, one of the most famous American paintings ever, is "American Gothic," which he produced in 1930. It featured two dour farmers, a man holding a pitchfork and his spinster daughter, standing in front of their home. "American Gothic" transformed Wood into a national celebrity overnight, but as the Depression ended, the public began to care less for the "American Scene" paintings. Wood was deeply unhappy over the public's indifference to his work and even tried to start a new career under an assumed name before he died at age 50.

Ensuing decades have not diminished the impact of Wood's work on either the world of art or on the American psyche. He is still considered one of the most important American artists. In tribute to him, the state of Iowa chose one of his paintings, "Arbor Day," as the basis for their commemorative state quarter.

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