Veterans Memorial Commission

Grant Wood Window

Memorial Window

Memorial Window viewing is free and open to the public:
Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. or by special appointment

Grant Wood stained glass Memorial WindowIn 1928, the Veterans Memorial Window project marked a pivotal turning point for local artist Grant Wood.  Despite having limited experience with the medium of stained glass and having never taken on a commission of this proportion, the Window is one of Wood's most revered works and serves as an awe-inspiring memorial to Veterans.  Wood and his assistant Arnold Pyle devoted months in preparation for the fabrication.  Perched high on wooden scaffolding in an old recreation room at the Quaker Oats company, Wood assembled a full-scale mock drawing.  The elaborate sketch or "study" allowed Wood to craft his design and provided the chance to correct problems of perspective.  For example, making lines and spaces at the top wider than those on the bottom so figures would appear in proportion.

The project was slowed by delays in the final stages, however Grant Wood and the Veterans Memorial Commission remained committed.  The result of their dedication is a lasting tribute to Veterans and the sacrifice made by so many.  Standing sixteen-feet tall is a central, super-human figure which is said to represent the "Republic".  Draped over her head is a blue mourning veil, her floating body surrounded by clouds.  In her right hand, she holds the palm branch of peace; in her left, the laurel wreath of victory.  Solemnly standing at the base are six soldiers donning the uniform of Private, representing the wars (from left to right): Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War and the First World War. 


This project would become a challenging two year undertaking that would send Grant Wood half way around the world.

The Emil Frei art glass company based out of St. Louis, Missouri was awarded the bid to fabricate the glass for the window.  However, it was found that due to the intricate detail aspired for the piece, it was necessary the glass be manufactured at the factory in Munich, Germany.

The ever meticulous Wood traveled to Munich to supervise the final stages of the production of the delicate pieces of glass.  The artist took advantage of these three months abroad and while visiting the Alte Pinakothek in Munich and Germanisches National-Museum in Nuremburg, Wood was intrigued by late Gothic and Northern Renaissance style paintings.  He became inspired by what he called "story-telling" pictures, particularly the works of Hans Memling, which prompted him to reevaluate the style in which he painted.

Wood's sojourn in Munich served as prologue to his master work.  This trip gave the artist an eye for a different kind of detail that resulted in an adjusted painting technique and use of regional subjects to tell stories in his works.  From this point onward, one can see a marked change in his painting style that celebrates such themes.  This practice became Grant Wood's trademark, widely recognized in his masterpiece, American Gothic.

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