Grant Wood (1891-1942)
Grant Wood (1891-1942)

Race Horse

Grant Wood (1891-1942)
Race Horse
signed 'Grant Wood' (lower right)
mixed media on paperboard
16 ½ x 22 ½ in. (41.9 x 57.2 cm.)
Executed in 1933.
Arthur T. Aldis, Chicago, Illinois, by 1935.
Mrs. C.S. Petrasch, Jr., Mount Kisco, New York, by 1942.
By descent to the present owners from the above.
Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 5, 1935.
Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 7, 1942, illustrated.
D. Garwood, Artist in Iowa: A Life of Grant Wood, New York, 1944, p. 159.
E.B. Green, A Grant Wood Sampler, Iowa City, Iowa, 1972, n.p., illustrated.
J.M. Dennis, Grant Wood: A Study in American Art and Culture, New York, 1975, pp. 8, 119, fig. 111b, illustrated.
W.M. Corn, Grant Wood: The Regionalist Vision, exhibition catalogue, New Haven, Connecticut, 1983, pp. 82, 144, 148, no. 208, illustrated.
Chicago, Illinois, The Lakeside Press Galleries, Loan Exhibition of Drawings and Paintings by Grant Wood, February-March 1935, p. 30, no. 54.
New York, Ferargil Galleries, The First New York Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Grant Wood, April 1935, p. 30, no. 54.
Chicago, Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-Third Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, October 29-December 10, 1942, no. 45, pl. IV, illustrated.

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Annie Rosen
Annie Rosen

Lot Essay

Executed in 1933, Grant Wood’s Race Horse demonstrates the astute draftsmanship and refined attention to detail that define the artist's best works. Utilizing a shallow, stage-like pictorial space, Wood grants the scene a sense of visual unity through repetition of forms and patterns. The work’s two central figures, a refined race horse and lean jockey, stand front and center anchoring the composition against a sea of spectators. In the background, the eagerly awaiting crowd and ruffling American flag capture the viewer’s eye and enhance the buzz of the spectacle taking place. The repetitive short lines of grass and the scattered peanuts in the foreground mimic the massive audience, creating a rhythmic harmony in the overall composition. As a result, Race Horse is emblematic of Wood’s distinct style and demonstrates his belief that “[w]ithout being either primitive or provincial, the contemporary American artist…could achieve an independent style by devising a personal ‘convention’ of composition and design applicable to ‘literary, story-telling, illustrational pictures.’” (J.M. Dennis, Grant Wood: A Study in American Art and Culture, New York, 1975, p. 143)

The same year he executed Race Horse, Wood also created Draft Horse (Private Collection), which acts as a complement to the present work with its more rural subject matter. Dr. Wanda Corn writes regarding both works, “The country horse, seen against a barn and natural landscape, is sturdy and muscular, as is the farmer who lovingly feeds him; the city thoroughbred and his jockey are both sleek and thin-limbed and show off for the crowd in the bleachers of a racetrack. The one belongs to the natural world of flowering trees and manual labor, the other to the modern world of faceless crowds and leisure; on the farm, pretty dandelions ‘litter’ the foreground, while in town unsightly peanuts and trash take their place.” (Grant Wood: The Regionalist Vision, exhibition catalogue, New Haven, Connecticut, 1983, p. 82) A study for the present work, entitled Sketch for Race Horse, is in the collection of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The first recorded owner of the present work, Arthur T. Aldis of Chicago (1861-1933), was the key individual responsible for bringing the Armory Show to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1913.

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