Grant Wood’s When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow (1934) and Breaking the Prairie (1936–37)

This film documents two of Grant Wood’s murals, on permanent display at Iowa State University, Ames. The university commissioned Grant Wood to make murals for its library under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the federal government’s Depression-era relief program for artists established in December 1933. Wood chose as his theme a quotation from Daniel Webster’s 1840 remarks on agriculture: “when tillage begins, other arts follow.” His concurrent appointment as state director of the PWAP for Iowa limited his role to designing two murals for the university and supervising their execution by other artists. The first mural to be completed, devoted to agriculture, engineering, and homemaking, was installed at the top of the stairwell leading into the library in 1934; the second mural, showing a pioneer farmer plowing a field, was installed in the library’s lobby in 1937.

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