The Douglas Era Mansion: 1906-1937

Grant Wood at Brucemore

Irene Douglas, the Douglas family's primary patron of the arts, had the financial resources as well as access to purchase art from all over the country — instead, her art collection reflects her support of local artists and friends. As evidenced by entries in her journals, Irene worked and socialized with Grant Wood during his career prior to painting the iconic American Gothic in 1930.

Irene Douglas check register recording payment to Grant Wood

In 1925, Irene hired him to decorate her daughter's sleeping porch. Sleeping porches were viewed as a healthy way to connect with the outdoors and offered relief from hot summer nights in un-airconditioned homes. An entry in the family check register, shown above, indicates she paid Wood $182 for this work.

Detail of Grant Wood plaster relief depicting vines, flowers and wilidlifeDecorated in a plaster relief depicting curving vines, flowers, birds, and animals, the Grant Wood Porch offers a unique opportunity to see the artist's versatility and skill.

The personal connection between the Douglas family and Grant Wood's early career is underscored by the fact that from 1924 to 1935, Wood's studio at 5 Turner Alley occupied the building that originally served as the Douglas family's carriage house. The Douglases lived at the house on 2nd Avenue and 8th Street SE before moving to Brucemore in 1906. Irene's passion for the arts made this rather incidental association more powerful.

The most committed and generous of Grant Wood's patrons was David Turner, a successful mortician and civic booster. In the mid-1920s, Turner encouraged Wood to begin supporting himself solely through art and freelance interior design projects. Wood crafted interior details and décor that still survives in Brucemore and other local homes.

From landscapes with rolling farm fields to depictions of American folktales, Grant Wood's best known works of art observed the world and community he understood so well.

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Don't miss!

Be sure to check out other image galleries showcasing Brucemore's fascinating history:

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