Full Frontal: Grant Wood’s Sultry Night

The last time Swann auctioned Grant Wood’s 1939 lithograph Sultry Night, it brought $36,000–a record price for any print by the artist at auction. Another impression is among the highlights of our May 1 auction of Old Master Through Modern Prints.
Wood is best known for his depictions of rural American life, and was one of the original members of the 1930s Midwestern American art movement known as “Regionalism.” He funded an artist colony near Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1932 before becoming a fine-art professor at the University of Iowa and state director of the Public Arts Fund in 1934. He was so involved in his teaching career, and his technique was so meticulously time consuming, Wood only produced 50 or so paintings and 19 lithographs in his lifetime.
Sultry Night, controversial because of its blatant, realistic depiction of the male nude–the only nude represented by a “Regionalist” artist–was deemed so shocking that the postmaster refused to send the prints to customers of Wood’s New York publisher Association of American Artists (AAA). As a result, only 100 impressions of Sultry Night were produced and sold “over the counter” at AAA.