“American Gothic” by Grant Wood depicts a farmer standing beside a woman. The woman is dressed in a colonial print apron evoking traditional Americana, and the man is holding a pitchfork. The inspiration came to Wood in his decision to paint what is known as the American Gothic House along with:
“the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.”
The man’s pitchfork symbolised hard labour, and with the onset of the Great Depression, this painting came to be seen as a depiction of steadfast American pioneer spirit. Wood’s inspiration came from a cottage designed in the Gothic Revival style with an upper window in the shape of a medieval pointed arch, which provided the painting’s title. Several elements in the picture reinforce the vertical that is associated with Gothic architecture, including the three-pronged pitchfork and the stitching of the man’s overalls.
Is the woman his spinster daughter or his wife? The woman was modelled by the artist sister Nan, who insisted that her brother had envisioned the couple as father and daughter, rather than husband and wife. Wood seems to confirm this view in a personal letter.
This painting is one of the most familiar images in 20th-century American art and has been widely parodied in American popular culture. Wood painter from a young age until his death, and although he is best known for his paintings, he worked in a large number of media. Wood is associated with the American movement of Regionalism that advanced figurative painting of rural American themes in an aggressive rejection of European abstraction.
- Title: American Gothic
- Artist: Grant Wood
- Year: 1930
- Medium: Oil on Beaver Board
- Dimensions Height: 780 mm (30.71 in). Width: 653 mm (25.71 in).
- Museum: Art Institute of Chicago
Artist Essential Facts:
- Name: Grant DeVolson Wood
- Born: 1891 – Anamosa, Iowa
- Died: 1942 (aged 50) – Iowa City, Iowa
- Nationality: American
- Movement: Regionalism
- Notable works:
- American Gothic
“Of course one should not drink much, but often.” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Photo Credit: Grant Wood [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons