Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood

Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood

John Duggleby
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Chronicle Books, 2005   ISBN: 0811849082

Grant Wood was raised on a farm in Iowa. He lived in a time when people were leaving the country to go and live in the cities but for Grant, life on the farm was what he loved. He loved the way the fields looked in the spring, he loved watching the men work during the harvest, and he loved the animals. Unfortunately this country life was not to last for Grant’s father got ill and died when Grant was still quite young. Grant and his brother and mother tried to hold onto the farm but it was just too much work for them to manage so they sold the farm and went to live in the town of Cedar Rapids. Here, at the schools that he attended Grant was able to pursue his greatest love, art. He was able to earn the money he needed for art supplies and he took lessons whenever he could.

Once he was grown up Grant had a hard time finding something to do to make a living. He knew he wanted to be an artist but he did not seem to be sure how he was supposed to go about doing this. He taught in schools, took on a few commissions, and floated from place to place. He took college classes, and he went to Paris, always looking for his own style and his own artistic voice. Then, at last he found what he was looking for in Germany. When he came home he created a painting which he called “Woman with plants” which reflected his new style. He then went on to paint “Stone City” and then “American Gothic.” It is this latter painting which catapulted Grant to stardom and which became one of the most famous paintings of all time.

Young readers will be fascinated to discover that the painter behind “American Gothic” was a very shy and reserved man who preferred to wear overalls, who often lived in very humble circumstances, and who was frequently poor. Written in an engaging and sympathetic style, John Duggleby gets inside the heart and mind of this very special man helping his readers to understand what motivated Grant Wood and how he came to develop his very unique artistic style.

In addition to the text this book is full of examples of Grant Wood’s artwork. There are cartoons, black and white studies, and full color reproductions of some his most famous paintings.