Arbor Day

Grant Wood  Oil Painting  1932

School children in many US states today are planting trees to commemorate Arbor Day.  The first Arbor Day was celebrated in 1872 when the Secretary of the Nebraska Territory,  J. Sterling Martin, proposed a tree planting celebration.  More than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day.

A Michigan native, he and his wife missed the numerous trees when they moved to Nebraska.  Originally a reporter and then a newspaper editor, he began writing articles about the importance of trees.  He was passionate about educating his fellow pioneers and inspiring them to join him in his tree planting mission.

Today, Arbor Day is celebrated on different dates depending on the best planting season.  Since it’s celebrated today in Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, three states in which I’ve lived, I thought April 29 was the correct day for this post.

Here is a great place to learn about the history:

Grant Wood is a Depression era Iowa artist.  His Painting American Gothic is one of the most famous American paintings of all time.  Although he studied in Europe and was particularly influenced by Van Ecyk, he found his inspiration at home in the Midwest.

He spent the majority of his life teaching in Iowa and is one of the best, and certainly the most well known Regionalist painter.  He was a founding member of the Stone City Art Colony where he taught and encouraged others to join the Regionalist movement.  He was also actively involved in the Public Works of Art Project in Iowa, as were his students.

Arbor Day depicts Grant Wood’s one room schoolhouse.  The teacher and boys plant a tree to commemorate the day. You can see a town in the far distance.  This painting is featured on the back of the Iowa state quarter.

I love this painting.  Love it.  There is something very satisfying to me in the parallel curved lines.  Start with the tracks on the road, then the layers of dirt, then up to the positioning of the boys in a U shape, and beyond them to the path next to the school.  Then the lines continue throughout the rolling hills.  It’s very orderly with the perfect fields.

Forget American Gothic, this is Regionalism at its best.  Of course, that could be the Midwestern girl in me.  Happy Arbor Day!

Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.  –J. Sterling Martin

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