For Love of Country, a Valentine, and a Stained Glass Window

For Love of Country, a Valentine, and a Stained Glass Window

Source: Lee Forman,

Today is Friday, the thirteenth of February, the day before Valentine’s Day. I should probably be writing about romantic love. But, I won’t.

Instead, I’ll write about a stunning symbol of peace and the love of country and American Regionalist painter Grant Wood (1891-1942) whose birthday is today. Wood was born near Anamosa, Iowa and moved with his family to Cedar Rapids, Iowa when he was ten. 

Last September I visited Cedar Rapids. I was presenting an illustrated talk about my love and late husband Charles Novacek’s book, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance at the extraordinary National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.

I had limited free time and decided to use it to view Grant Wood art.  The world’s largest collection of works by Wood is at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Too overwhelming, I thought! I decided to save viewing that for my next trip especially since Wood’s legendary painting American Gothic (the iconic portrait of a farmer and his daughter) is not even there. It’s in Chicago’s Art Institute!

What I did visit was the Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island just west of the Cedar Rapids business district.  The lovely Beaux Arts style building houses a stunning stained glass memorial window – the only stained glass window designed by Grant Wood in 1927, one year before Charles was born during a time of peace.   The glass was stained in Munich, Germany, and brought back in about 10,000 pieces to be fitted together with lead and installed in 1928 as a memorial to veterans of all wars.

The window stands 24 feet high and 20 feet wide and consists of about 10,000 pieces of stained glass fitted together with lead.  According to a 1928 article from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “Nan Wood Graham, sister of the artist, modeled for the heroic central figure of the work – a 16 foot woman wearing a Grecian robe and a blue mourning veil draped over her head.  She gives the spiritual effect of a Renaissance painting as she floats in the clouds. In her right hand she the palm branch of peace and in her left the laurel wreath of victory.”

The woman looks down upon six male life-size soldiers, outfitted in the uniform a Private would have worn from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish American War and World War I. Insignias of the Navy, Army, and U. S. Marines border the window.

Grants Wood’s impressive window is a shining reminder of the extraordinary courage, dedication and sacrifice made by so many for the love of their country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *