Saturday, October 9, 2010

American Gothic

My Mom has been working on her garden and paused with her pitchfork, reminding us both of the iconic 1930 painting "American Gothic" (1st image) by Grant Wood (1891-1942). She was unaware - as you may be - that the image depicts a man and his daughter, not his wife. After a house in his native Iowa (2nd image) caught his eye, Wood had his dentist and his sister pose as a farmer and his unmarried daughter to create the work that brought him instant fame, and has been parodied ever since. Intended as an expression of the moral virtues of the Midwest, it has been criticized from its early dissemination as a caricature of rural America. "Any look beyond 'American Gothic,' or even a close look at that familiar image of man, woman, house and pitchfork, will dispel the notion of Wood as a harmless, mainstream champion of patriotic Americana," writes Janet Maslin in her review of a biography of the painter's life released just last week. The painting used on the cover of the book, for instance, looks naive but actually shows the vehicles on a collision course with each other. His other paintings are also deceptively simple and reveal Wood's mischievous character. In "Portrait of Nan," his sister who had modeled for the daughter in "American Gothic" and was known for her cruel personality, the ties to her blouse read as bats. In "Victorian Survival," the neck of Wood's Aunt Tillie is elongated and sliced through by a black choker. And in "Daughters of Revolution," he retaliates against the D.A.R.'s outspoken objection to his having a commissioned stained glass window made in Germany, so recently an enemy, by painting 3 members in front of a painting they hold sacred when in fact it was painted by a German. According to his biographer, Wood had a morbid sensibility and once used a coffin lid as his studio’s front door, so I imagine he would be pleased at his inclusion in Quigley's Cabinet.

1 comment:

  1. A worthy addition to the collection. Fascinating. Thank you.


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