In 1930, Grant Wood entered his now iconic painting, American Gothic, in an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood had attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1913. The painting won a $300 prize and gave Wood instant recognition, across America, as a Regional Artist.
The money he got from the painting probably came in handy for Wood, who had made several trips to Europe from 1922 through 1928, and returned to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he lived with mother. The Great Depression hit in 1929, and artists, like everyone else, were hit hard.
The Rise of the Lithograph
In 1934, Reeves Lewenthal, who had been a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, had the idea of selling limited edition, fine art lithographs, for affordable prices to middle-class buyers who could not otherwise afford to collect fine art.
Lewenthal established Associated American Artists (AAA), and hired artists, like Grant Wood, to produce lithographs for which he paid the artist $200 per edition. He sold them to buyers for $5 apiece plus $2 per frame. The AAA was a success, and by the fall of 1934, Lewenthal had contracts with fifty department stores to carry signed lithographs done by some of America’s finest artists.
In 1936, Lewenthal opened a gallery on Madison Avenue, then expanded to Fifth Avenue and soon added galleries in Chicago and Beverly Hills. He also hosted traveling exhibits in hotels, schools and other public venues and produced a catalog to educate consumers about the art and artists who were part of the AAA and to promote mail order sales.
Wood submitted Sultry Night, a lithograph depicting a farmer pouring water over himself from an outside cistern, but the US Postal Service thought the subject was too suggestive and prohibited mail order sales of the print…now part of the permanent collection at the Met.
Grant Wood died in 1942, of pancreatic cancer, a day before his 51st birthday, just a few years after the Depression ended. His sister, Nan, who was the model for American Gothic, inherited his works. When she died, in 1990, her estate became the property of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.
Grant Wood Lithographs at Surovek Gallery
Please contact us if you would like more information about the lithographs of Grant Wood or any of the other fine art works available at Surovek Gallery.
Joanne B. Mulcahy. How Printmaking Became Popular After the Great Depression. Hyperallergic. August 5, 2019.
Dennis Kardon. Why Most People Don’t Get Grant Wood. Hyperallergic.April 20, 2018.
Steve Johnson. Up next for Art on the Mart: Classics from the Art Institute will be projected on the Merchandise Mart. Chicago Tribune. August 1, 2019.