CEDAR RAPIDS — For the first time in a generation, Coe College is loaning three large Grant Wood mural panels to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
The paintings will be part of a large exhibition titled “Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables,” which will be on display at the Whitney from March 2 through June 10.
The 1930 oil painting “American Gothic,” Wood's most famous work, will be the centerpiece of the Whitney exhibit, on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. Featuring many of Wood’s classic paintings depicting the landscapes of rural America in the 1920s and 1930s, the exhibition will include about 130 works.
To commemorate the Grant Wood art leaving Coe’s campus, the college is holding a reception at 5 p.m. Tuesday (12/19) in the Perrine Gallery of Stewart Memorial Library, where the murals are displayed. Ranelle Knight-Lueth, assistant professor of Art History and director of Galleries and Collections at Coe, will share her experiences working with the Whitney, as well as the process of loaning artwork and how Coe College was chosen. Also speaking will be Katherine Kunau, associate curator at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, which is loaning 27 pieces for the Whitney exhibition.
“Coe’s Permanent Collection rarely receives such recognition, and we are excited to have our Grant Wood mural panels be part of this exhibition,” Knight-Lueth said. “It offers Coe and Eastern Iowa in general, the opportunity to share its artworks with a larger audience, and that’s a very good thing."
Murals from “The Fruits of Iowa” collection chosen by the Whitney are “Boy Milking Cow,” “Farmer with Pigs and Corn” and “Farmer’s Wife with Chickens.” Some of these works went to the Whitney in 1983 as part of a traveling tour, and will be making their second appearance this spring.
The art will be crated by specialists, transported and installed at the Whitney in the next few months. The murals will return to Coe for reinstallation after the exhibition closes next summer.
Wood at Coe
Twelve of the 14 Grant Wood pieces Coe owns are on display in the Perrine Gallery at Stewart Memorial Library, The six large farm murals are titled “Farmer with Pigs and Corn,” “Iowa Farm Landscape,” “Farmer’s Wife with Chickens,” “Farmer’s Daughter with Vegetables,” “Boy Milking Cow” and “Farmer’s Son with Watermelon.” Along with the smaller mural, “Fruit Basket,” these works constitute the heart of the Regionalism portion of Coe’s collection.
Created by Wood in 1932 in oil on canvas, they are known collectively as “The Fruits of Iowa.” The art was commissioned by Eugene C. Eppley for the Coffee Shop of his Montrose Hotel in Cedar Rapids. When the hotel changed ownership in 1956, the murals were loaned to Coe and in 1976, the Eppley Foundation donated the murals to the college.
Five smaller, yet significant works by Wood supplement these murals, including the charcoal on paper study of “Daughters of Revolution,” some of his high school illustrations and an early landscape painting.
The Grant Wood art can be viewed by the public at no charge during regular business hours at Stewart Memorial Library.
WHAT: Grant Wood exhibition loan reception
WHEN: 5 p.m. Tuesday (12/19)
WHERE: Perrine Gallery of Stewart Memorial Library, Coe College, 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
SPEAKERS: Ranelle Knight-Lueth, assistant professor of Art History and director of Galleries and Collections at Coe College, and Katherine Kunau, associate curator at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art