Grant Wood (1891–1942), Family Doctor Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by

Family DoctorGrant Wood (1891–1942)
Family Doctor, 1941
Lithograph on paper, 10 x 11 15⁄16 inches
Gift of Dr. David and Kathryn Gilbertson

Unlike his other prints, this one was not distributed through postal and retail stores but was made through Associated American Artists for Abbott Laboratories, a pharmaceuticals company in Chicago. Through their subscription magazine, doctors were able to mail in a coupon for a free, signed example of the print. Although Family Doctor was made in an edition of 300, more than the normal 250 for all but one of Wood’s other eighteen prints, many of the examples seem not to have survived—perhaps, because of the nature of their distribution, that they were free, and that those acquiring them were not print collectors, their value was not recognized—and the print today is relatively more scarce. The image of a doctor’s hands holding a stethoscope and a thermometer had obvious appeal to the intended audience, and served as an homage to Wood’s own doctor, A. W. Bennett. He had served as Wood’s model earlier, for an image titled General Practitioner that was one of Wood’s illustrations for a 1937 limited edition of Main Street (first published 1920) by Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951). Bennett had served both Wood and his mother, Hattie, and it was he who referred Wood to the University Hospital in Iowa City when in November of 1941 Wood complained about not feeling well. Exploratory surgery revealed extensive cancer, from which Wood died the following February, just before his fifty-first birthday. He signed the Family Doctor lithographs from his hospital room. Wood left a description of this print that indicates his gratitude to Dr. Bennett, and to other physicians: “Let this be a tribute to the skill and artistry of the Family Doctor from one who for many years has known him well, sometimes in his professional role, occasionally as a critic, always as a friend.”

Text from the catalogue for the exhibition The Eight, The Ashcan School, and The American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection, presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art February 25 through April 21, 2013.


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