Sultry Night: Selected Works by Grant Wood

March 30 – June 24, 2018

In 1934, Grant Wood was asked to join the Associated American Artists (AAA)—a new business venture headquartered in New York, whose aim was to sell affordable prints to the masses in department stores and through mail-order catalogues. Wood admired the program’s democratic mission and accepted the invitation. In 1937, he produced his first lithograph, Tree Planting Group, which was priced at five dollars through the AAA. The artist eventually executed nineteen lithographs for the program.

Sultry Night, one of the prints Wood created during this period, sparked controversy for its depiction of a farm hand bathing nude at a trough by moonlight. The work’s seductive, homoerotic nature led to questions regarding Wood’s sexuality. The United States Postal Service deemed the print pornographic and refused to deliver it. As a result, the lithograph’s edition was limited to one-hundred impressions—from a typical run of two-hundred and fifty— and it was only sold in New York.  Despite this, Wood completed a painting of the same scene and title. However, after the painting was rejected from an international art exhibition, Wood, in exasperation, burned the section of the painting which featured the male nude and sold the remaining half to a family in Madison, Wisconsin, where it has remained for over half a century.

Sultry Night: Selected Works by Grant Wood features the suite of nineteen lithographs Wood completed for the AAA, and, in addition, the rarely seen Sultry Night painting, on loan from Wisconsin. This marks the first time the painting has been publicly exhibited in Iowa. Also on view are early Impressionist paintings of the Iowa landscape by Wood produced in the early 1920s.

This exhibition is organized by Assistant Curator Jared Ledesma.

entirely unexpected