Parson Weems' Fable

Happy Presidents' Day!

Parson Weems' Fable, Oil on canvas, 38⅛" x 50⅛", 1939

1970.43, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Grant Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa, and trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Academie Julian in Paris, France. He taught art in the public schools of Cedar Rapids, Iowa from 1919 to 1924 and at the University of Iowa from 1935 to 1940. He is one of the major figures in American Regionalism, sharing this distinct status with Thomas Hart Benton and John Stewart Curry. The Regionalist artists reflected the isolationist attitudes of the country between World War I and World War II. This was evident in the art world as well as in politics. The artists of this historical style were rebelling against Modernist art, which was seen as elitist, foreign-influenced, and not representative of the American experience. The art produced during this period was socially-conscious, but was nationalistic and chauvinistic about life in America.

Parson Weems' Fable is Wood's playful satire of the famous tale about George Washington's inability to tell a lie. That story is now understood as a bit of folklore, but it was once propagated as truth by Mason Locke ("Parson") Weems, Washington's first biographer. Weems fell from grace once it was discovered that this and other tales he had published in his book, The Life of George Washington: With Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honourable to Himself, and Exemplary to His Young Countrymen, were just that: tales.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

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