Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grant Wood fills you with questions.

American Gothic by Grant Wood
1930, Oil on beaverboard, 74.3 x 62.4 cm

All right, if you tell me you have never seen this picture, or at least a reference to this picture... you either are lying are live in a shoe box. If you just haven't seen it, here's your chance. I present to you..... American Gothic, enjoy as you will never be the same.

Grant Wood seems like a pretty cool guy. He was a Regionalist,  who just concentrated on Midwestern subject matter, Iowa to be exact. Regionalism was a movement in the 1930's and 1940's and was started by a small group of people who wanted to depict rural life and ignore anything influenced by Europe. Now that you know what a Regionalist is, the next stop is figuring out just what the heck is meant by "American Gothic". Though it would be entertaining,  no "American Gothic" is not referring to a bunch of Americans wearing heavy eyeliner and dark clothes, sorry. American Gothic is actually a style of painting, Grant Wood just epitomized this style hence the name of the piece. In a very small nutshell, American Gothic simply refers to a style of American scence painting that is typified by more awkward and gaunt aspects. To put it simply, just take a look at Grant Wood's American Gothic.

The house in the picture is mid-west gothic revival. Notice the little window at the top of the house, it is suppossed to make you think of a pointed arch in a old Gothic cathedral. That pretty much explains the Gothic part. Next, the people! I bet you all are thinking "Man, what is their deal?" Well, many believe that Wood was just showing the rural medwestern people as everyone thought they were. Rigid, strict, plain, and boring. Notice how the woman is looking away, it's because she is a woman. The picture is suppossed to represent a Puritan dad and his daughter, basically just showing Iowa as it is.

A few fun facts. One, the guy who modeled for the picture was Grant Wood's dentist, the lady is Grant Wood's sister. Second, notice how the plants are wilting in the background on the porch? This symbolizes the lack of sexuality, not between the woman and man of course, but in the aspect of the daughter being protected by the father, therefore it's a big no no.

The reason I love this painting so much is not because I see it everywhere, mostly in a form of a paraody, but because it just is so real. Regionalism is cool because the artists were committed to depicting life as it was. No fake smiles, no fake beautiful buildings, and no fake emotions- just life. I also love it because of the expressions on their faces. He is staring directly at you, and it kind of makes you uncomforable. She on the other hand seems to be preoccupied and a bit worried. I always wonder what is on her mind. I LOVE THAT. I love when artists can paint a simple face that fills you with questions. To me, that's good art. Art should inspire and more imporantly art should be questioned.

Grant Wood fills you with questions.


  1. Do not like this one at all. It definitely does make me uncomfortable this man just glaring at me. She is passive and softer but he is harsh and unforgiving. If this represents American's heartland then it is a poor commentary, perhaps the Iowa of the 30's. What would you conclude the implication of the pitch fork to be because it is essentially the center piece of this painting?

  2. Now, I for one love this painting. I think it's very interesting how the models are his sister and dentist. One thing that's interesting is that his sister was really repulsed when people assumed he was supposed to be her husband, since she thought he was old and gross.

  3. Mom, Well the main inspiration for this painting was when Grant Wood saw the house in Iowa, he later thought up having a farmer and his daughter in front of it. It's supposed to make you uncomfortable, and because it does- it's good! Not all art should make you feel happy to be good art, there has to be a mixed pot of emotions! The pitchfork was meant to basically echo the lines of the window in the house, make the picture compositional by mirroring the long oval faces of the people, and to confirm that the guy is a farmer. As far as the implications of the pitchfork I would assume it is merely representing masculinity.

    & Nicole, I didn't know that! That is pretty interesting. Thanks!

  4. A very recognizable picture! I always asumed that the Woman was the Farmers Wife. But I guess the rigors of farm life would have made a wife old before her time. I appreciate the comments posted by knowledgeable people Now I understand the painting much better!

  5. Greetings! I found your blog through a link on When Art History Goes Bad.

    This is a great post. I've never noticed the wilted plants before. It totally makes sense that they reference the wilted sexuality and fecundity of the daughter, due to her father's protectiveness.

    Your blog seems really fun. I'll make sure to visit it often. I'm an art historian too, and I also have an art history blog. You're welcome to visit, if you like:

  6. Hello M!

    Thanks for the positive feedback, I check out your blog and love it! I especially love your twitter updates with news. I visit everyday, but I love to read feedback on art news as well as keep up constantly.

    Also, I will add your blog link to my Art History Related Sites section on my blog!

    Thanks Again : )

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