A Grant Wood painting sells for millions

Monday, December 5, 2005

A Grant Wood painting that sold for $6.96 million at a Sotheby's auction may be a record for the artist who was immortalized with "American Gothic."

"I'm not aware of anything that's gone this high," said Terry Pitts, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

The museum houses several of Wood's paintings and is currently showcasing an exhibit of his work, including "American Gothic" - the painting of the stern, balding and bespectacled farmer with pitchfork in hand, and the dour, strait-laced woman in front of a farm house.

Wood's "Spring Plowing," a landscape of rolling farm fields painted in 1932, was sold Wednesday by an unnamed seller to an unnamed buyer. The sales price was well above estimates of $3 million to $5 million, Sotheby's Web site said.

The price eclipsed Wood's "Arbor Day," which is featured on the Iowa quarter, which sold in 1995 for $1.37 million.

Pitt said there could be several factors driving the painting's price, including the 75th anniversary of "American Gothic" and the release of three books about Grant Wood this year.

"I think there are so few paintings in private hands that were made after he made his dramatic change in the paintings of the 1930s," he said. "If any of them come up, they're going to do very well at auction, whether it's a landscape or not."

Pitt said Wood's portraits probably also would bring several million dollars, but it's the landscapes that have reached the popular imagination.

"If someone wants a quintessential Grant Wood - they can't have the 'American Gothic' - they'll probably pick a landscape."

Wood was born in 1891 on a farm near Anamosa, north of Cedar Rapids, where he had a studio. He painted "American Gothic" in 1930, and sold it for $300. It made him a near-instant icon for regionalism and Midwestern art.

and for the Midwestern artists. Pretty much every painting that he ever made from 1930 on was immediately purchased."

Pitts said he doesn't know how many Wood paintings exist, in private or public collections. The Cedar Rapids School District owns several, including a landscape entitled "Young Corn," which is on loan the Cedar Rapids museum.

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