Grant Wood. American Gothic.
Oil on beaverboard, 74.3 x 62.4 cm.
Art Institute of Chicago, USA.
In 1930, Grant Wood, an American painter with European training, noticed a small white house built in Carpenter Gothic architecture in Eldon, Iowa. Wood decided to paint the house
along with "the kind of people I fancied should live in that house." He recruited his sister Nan to model the woman, dressing her in a colonial print apron mimicking 19th century Americana.
The man is modeled on Wood's dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The three-pronged hay fork is echoed in the stitching of the man's overalls, the Gothic window of the
house and the structure of the man's face. Each element was painted separately; the models sat separately and never stood in front of the house.
American Gothic remains one of the most famous paintings in the history of American art. It is a primary example of Regionalism, a movement that aggressively opposed European abstract art,
preferring depictions of rural American subjects rendered in a representational style. The painting has become part of American popular culture, and the couple has been the subject of endless parodies.
Some believe that Wood used this painting to satirize the narrow-mindedness and repression that has been said to characterize Midwestern culture, an accusation he denied.
The painting may also be read as a glorification of the moral virtue of rural America or even as an ambiguous mixture of praise and satire.
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