In 1937, Grant
Wood was asked to illustrate a novel that, like his painting American
Gothic, had already become a classic: Sinclair Lewiss Main Street.
Published nearly twenty years earlier in 1920, Lewiss novel
had come to represent the Midwest just as Woods paintings symbolized
that region during the 1930s. Today Sinclair Lewis and Grant Wood
still endure as cultural figures who captured something distinctive
yet elusive about the Heartland; yet Lewis and Wood looked at the
American Midwest through different eyes.
Lewis saw provincialism
and narrowness, while Wood gloried in the solid, earthy strength of
his fellow midwesterners and their land. Both men felt conflicted
about their homes, and these dichotomies filtered into their work.
This publication explores the American Main Street of both Lewis and
Wood through the nine drawings Wood created for the 1937 Special Editions
Club book, Main Street, as well as two self-portraits of the artist
as a Midwesterner.