Grant Wood’s Iowa: A Travel Guide Inspired by a Budding Romance

Oct 7, 2014

English artist William Rose says the first time he saw Grant Wood’s American Gothic in person, he was surprised.

He knew of Wood’s work but took it for granted until he saw the painting “in the flesh.”

“I knew the painting as a child. It’s such a powerful image, but it’s actually the touch of the paint that moved me. As a painter, the way the paint was applied… the photographs have never really communicated that. It’s beautifully painted when you see it in the flesh."

After seeing American Gothic in Chicago, Rose traveled to Iowa to see more of Wood’s art at the direction of his friend Wende Elliott. The two have now published a travel guide that functions as both a biography and a guide book to visit the artists’ work that’s on display right here in Iowa. The two are now married and said traveling around the state to see Wood’s art played has played a role in their romance.

The two met as students at Princeton University, and Rose visited Elliott when she moved to Iowa to work as an organic farmer near Ames.

“I guess in some ways, the book is sort of a record of the dates that we went on,” Elliott says. “I knew that he was accustomed to art in Europe, so when he came here, I wanted to host him in a way that he would find interesting. When we went on dates on the weekend, I tried to map out an itinerary that would go to a different place that figured in Grant Wood’s life.”

During this Talk of Iowa interview, Charity Nebbe talks with Elliott and Rose about the book, how moved they were when the visited Grant Wood’s studio and grave and their favorite places in the state to see his work.