The Corn Room
Donated by Alan Fredregill
This work is on long-term exhibition.
The Corn Room mural was one of four murals commissioned by Omaha businessman Eugene Eppley for his hotels in Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, and Sioux City. Originally part of the historical Martin Hotel, the Corn Room was created by Grant Wood in 1926, then lost for decades under paint and old wallpaper, only to be rediscovered in 1979.
The mural was initially donated to the Art Center in 1986 by Tower Properties, Ltd., but when the corporation went into bankruptcy in 1989, the courts made the donation invalid and ordered it to be sold at auction. In 1995, this auction was held at the Sioux City Art Center, and the mural was purchased by Sioux City attorney, Alan Fredregill for $80,000. He spent the next year looking for a permanent home for the Corn Room, ultimately donating it to the Art Center where it was accessioned into the permanent collection.
The Corn Room is a significant transitional work for Wood’s development. His conception of Regionalism, the only Modernist art movement to come out of the Midwest, emerges in this mural. We can see his embrace of the local subjects and native landscape familiar from Wood’s mature, Regionalist works of the 1930s, but the mural is executed in an earlier, painterly technique where he created his imagery by removing paint from the prepared canvas. This subtractive technique resulted in severe damage to the canvas when it was covered in the 1950s. The conservation process saved the mural, but the resulting damage has dimmed the imagery and shifted his colors towards the golden-brown visible today.