Saturday Night, a drawing by acclaimed American artist Grant Wood (1891-1942), and part of the Berkshire Museum’s collection, is on view now through June 10 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, included in their new exhibition Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables.
Most people recognize the ubiquitous American Gothic, Wood’s most famous painting. There was much more to Grant Wood’s career, however, and the Whitney’s important retrospective includes his work in decorative arts, illustration, and murals, as well as his more familiar paintings.
Saturday Night, an illustration depicting a boy standing in a rustic washtub, toweling off after his bath, in crayon and graphite on paper (19.5 by 26 inches), was made in 1935. The image is one of a series that depicts characters engaged in simple, everyday activities: a farmer eats a sandwich from his lunch pail, a boy churns butter while his cat grooms itself, a grandmother patches a pair of jeans, a woman peels apples, and an older man in overalls enjoys a bowl of popcorn. The drawings are illustrations for a children’s book called Farm On the Hill by Madeline Darrough Horn, published in 1936 by Charles Scribner and Sons. The story is about two boys who live in a town visiting their grandparents’ farm for the summer. Wood produced eight illustrations for the book, the only children’s book he ever illustrated.
About the exhibition:
Grant Wood’s American Gothic — the double portrait of the farmer with a pitchfork and the grim woman at his side — is unquestionably an icon in twentieth-century American art. But Grant Wood, an accomplished painter, designer, and craftsman, produced a varied body of work, and Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables offers viewers a more complete look at Wood’s career, including his early Arts and Crafts decorative objects, Impressionist oils, murals, paintings, and illustrations. His distinctive vision of America’s heartland was in many ways a fable, crafted to offer solace and nostalgia to a nation struggling through the Great Depression. According to the description on the Whitney website, the exhibition “… reveals a complex, sophisticated artist whose image as a farmer-painter was as mythical as the fables he depicted in his art. Wood sought pictorially to fashion a world of harmony and prosperity that would answer America’s need for reassurance at a time of economic and social upheaval occasioned by the Depression. … By depicting his subconscious anxieties through populist images of rural America, Wood crafted images that speak both to American identity and to the estrangement and isolation of modern life.”
For more information on the exhibition and the Whitney Museum, visit whitney.org.