Life and Times
Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa. From a very young age he showed a keen interest in creative pursuits – drawing and painting being favorites. When he was just 10 years old, his father died, and his mother took the family to Cedar Rapids.
After graduating from high school, Wood studied at Minneapolis art school for a year, then returned to take up a position as a schoolteacher in a small one-class school. Three years later, in 1913, he joined the Art Institute of Chicago for a two year course. Again he went back to his hometown, this time to work as a teacher in the Junior High school.
In the period from 1920 to 1928, Wood made four trips to Europe, studying, copying, and reinventing many styles of painting, especially the impressionist French painters such as Manet and Monet. On his final visit to Paris, Wood had the courage to organize his own exhibition – to mixed reviews. Wood later denied that his travels abroad had influenced his own painting – to quote the artist himself, ‘all the really good ideas I’d ever had came to me while I was milking a cow’.
Back at home, Wood turned the loft of an old house into his workspace, taking it upon himself to give his new studio a name - 5 Turner Alley. He worked on a great variety of projects, mostly paintings, but also designs in ceramics, metal and wood. The studio is now owned by the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, who run regular tours (which are very invocative of the spirit and character of the artist).
In 1932, Wood was a founding member of the Stone City Art Colony, a collective of artists, which met for two summers. Wood helped many of the collective’s members through the depression, by securing them work with the Federal Works of Art Program creating a series of Depression Era murals.
Wood had a worthy reputation for inspiring and helping young artists, and in 1934 the University of Iowa persuaded him to join them to teach art. So after more than twenty years of living in Cedar Rapids, Wood moved from his beloved hometown to Iowa city.
In 1942, one day before his 51st birthday, Wood died in hospital. The popularity of his art seemed to die with him. A retrospective show of his works in Chicago in late 1942 brought out many back-stabbing knives from the critical press.