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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“American Gothic” by Grant Wood

Grant Wood - American Gothic - Google Art Project

“American Gothic” by Grant Wood

“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 symbolized hard labor, and with the onset of the Great Depression, this painting came to be seen as a depiction of the 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 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 artist’s sister Nan modeled the woman. Later she 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. The movement advanced figurative painting of rural American themes in an aggressive rejection of European abstraction.

Grant Wood

Grant Wood (1891 – 1942) was an American painter best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest. From 1922 to 1928, Wood made four trips to Europe, where he studied art. He studied Impressionism and post-Impressionism; however, it was the work of Jan van Eyck that influenced him to take on the clarity of this technique.

From 1922 to 1935, Wood lived in Cedar Rapids, where he helped found the Stone City Art Colony to help artists get through the Great Depression. He became a great proponent of regionalism in the arts. Wood taught painting at the University of Iowa’s School of Art from 1934 to 1941. The day before his 51st birthday, Wood died of pancreatic cancer.

American Gothic

  • Title:               American Gothic
  • Artist:             Grant Wood
  • Year:               1930
  • Medium:         Oil on Beaver Board
  • Dimensions    H: 780 mm (30.71 in). W: 653 mm (25.71 in).
  • Museum:        Art Institute of Chicago

Grant Wood

  • Name:             Grant DeVolson Wood
  • Born:               1891 – Anamosa, Iowa
  • Died:               1942 (aged 50) – Iowa City, Iowa
  • Nationality:     American
  • Movement:     Regionalism
  • Notable works:

A Tour of Art Institute of Chicago

A Tour of Chicago’s Museums

Reflections

  • Why is “American Gothic” such a frequently parodied image?

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“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
– American Proverb

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Photo Credit: Grant Wood [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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