cover image Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood

Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood

John Duggleby. Chronicle Books, $15.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1242-9

A Midwestern plainspokenness shapes this account of the native son's life and work, told here as a sort of farm-bred fairy tale of early hardship and eventual triumph. Wood's monetarily poor but visually rich childhood and determined pursuit of his own artistic vision are described in an unsentimental but lively manner, the scope and tone well suited to the target audience. With its stately layout, handsome full-page color reproductions, monochrome line art, vintage photographs and quick demonstration of the artist's hen-drawing technique, the book itself is inviting. A few inconsistencies-paintings reproduced but not mentioned in the text and others referred to but not shown-and the lack of bibliography are unfortunate oversights, and the absence of detailed captions may cause confusion as readers will not immediately recognize all the illustrations as Wood's works. The treatment of Wood's contacts with the abstract style and impressionism, meanwhile, seems almost xenophobic (a teacher explains impressionism by holding one of Grant's watercolors under a running faucet). Still, Duggleby's homage to his fellow Iowan is a quietly inspiring portrait of the hard work, perseverance and down-home quirkiness of a major artist, and a clear exposition of his place in American culture. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)