Grant Wood, American. American Gothic, 1930. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago: Friends of American Art Collection.
Look at this!
American Gothic is one of the most famous paintings in American art. Iowa-born artist Grant Wood got the inspiration for it when he drove past a white cottage in Eldon, Iowa during the summer of 1930. He asked his sister, Nan, and his stern-looking dentist, Byron McKeeby, to pose as farmers. Would you believe that Wood was able to paint Nan and Byron standing side-by-side even though they never posed together?
A few months later, Wood entered the painting in a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago and won the third place award of $300.
Think about it.
After the competition, a picture of the painting was published in an Iowa newspaper. Iowa farmers criticized Wood for portraying them in a negative light. Wood defended himself by saying that he was a "loyal Iowan" and that the painting celebrated rural life in America. What do you think? Do you think American Gothic celebrates or pokes fun at farmers?
There are actually two pitchforks in the painting. The man is holding one. Can you find the second, hidden one?
It has been more than 70 years since Wood painted American Gothic, but no one knows for sure whether the woman is supposed to represent the man's younger wife or his unmarried daughter. Which do you think she is supposed to be? Now, write a poem about why she and her husband or father have those expressions on their faces (are they tired, unhappy, party poopers, or just plain mad?).