Sippin’ that Truth Tea with Grant Wood and the DAR.
Nobody would blame you if you looked at this painting and thought, “yikes.” Grant Wood’s depiction of a Daughters of the Revolution tea party looks even less fun than one of Emily Gilmore’s DAR soirees. These are the most formidable of your grandmother’s friends, the ones who see right through your vague answers about boyfriends and school and will DEFINITELY let you know when you’ve laid out the tea set incorrectly.
Grant Wood, like his fellow Regionalist painters, was super into exploring middle America, “the real America” (cue Liz Lemon eye-roll: “that's a nonsense term. All of America is America”). While other painters were livin’ it up in the big city, Wood, like Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, was painting that small town life. But while Benton and Curry were often eager to make everything in rural America look dandy, the atmosphere in Wood’s paintings is sometimes more ambiguous. This is a fact recognized by anyone who’s looked at American Gothic and had an uncomfortable flashback to their most boring and miserable relationship.
The same seems true of Daughters of Revolution: these ladies are not! here! for! your! sh*t! Wood had good reason to paint the women with such unrelenting severity: he and the DAR had a feud of Chrissy Teigen/Piers Morgan proportions. Wood was commissioned to create a stained glass window for a WWI memorial in his home town of Cedar Rapids, and he went to Germany, a leading country in stained-glass making, to source his glass for the project. The local DAR chapter threw a fit, clearly forgetting all about America’s “melting pot” aesthetic and finding Wood’s German glass mega un-patriotic. Wood’s response came with extra salt: he called them a bunch of “Tory gals” and created this tight-lipped portrait of them with a print of the famous Washington Crossing the Delaware in the background - painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, (gasp) a German! The contrast between the heroic forefathers in Leutze’s painting and these somber dames couldn’t be clearer. So let’s raise our teacups to Grant Wood, creator of one of the best clap backs art history has ever seen.