Grant Wood and the American Farm

Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery

The family farm occupies a central place in American identity. Many of the country’s founders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, extolled the virtues of farmers and farm life.

Jefferson wrote in 1785, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”

This attitude permeated American culture, from literature to journalism to painting. Grant Wood and the American Farm will trace the evolution of this notion over a period of a hundred years, from 1850 to 1950. It will give particular attention to the Regionalist artist Grant Wood and other artists from some of the nation’s top collections including Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Thomas Hart Benton, Arthur Dove, Charles Sheeler, and Andrew Wyeth.

This examination of the American farm is particularly appropriate for Reynolda House Museum of American Art because our history provides an early example of the passion for “farm to table.” The Museum occupies the center of a former 1,000-acre estate created in the early years of the 20th century by Katharine Smith Reynolds, wife of tobacco magnate Richard Joshua (R.J.) Reynolds.

Katharine Reynolds’s vision for the Reynolda estate included a large vegetable garden and a model farm intended to demonstrate the most progressive techniques in farming, dairying, and animal husbandry. Grant Wood and the American Farm was organized by Reynolda House Museum of American Art, which is its only venue.