Regionalism Nationalism And Isolationism In American Gothic
There is no doubt that Grant Wood did not like to see European influencing the architecture of small town America. This rebellion against European influences can also be seen in the American Regionalism movement as a whole. While Europe had dominated the arts for centuries and spawned countless art movements and schools of thought, Regionalism was a very American art movement that began in the 1930s. The negative effects of the Great Depression and World War I contributed to pushing public opinion and policy in America increasingly toward nationalism and isolationism. Responding to this, American scene painters like Wood were growing more interested in using their art to depict realistic, down-to-earth scenes and images from their own lives and culture in rural and small-town America.
Why The Title American Gothic
When the artist saw an unusual house in Iowa with an upper window with pointed arches usually found in churches, he was inspired to paint this picture with the kind of people he imagined would live inside.
The title American Gothic is therefore a reference to the neo-Gothic architectural style of this house.
American Gothic Meaning Explained: A Critique Of Small Town America
What is the hidden meaning of American Gothic? Why is this painting so famous? In his painting, Grant Wood critiques and satirizes the restrictive and at times repressive nature of small town American life in the 1930s more than the people themselves. In terms of composition, the tightly cropped painting suggests the claustrophobic and limiting nature of life in a small town, especially for women. The sad, slightly troubled expression on the daughters humorless face reveals her true feelings about her place within this social structure. The ceilings in the American Gothic house might be vaulted, but we can see in Wood’s painting that the lifestyle and culture that come with it may be stifling.
Don’t Miss: Small Business Startup Grants For Minorities
An Interpretation Of American Gothic: Satire & Architecture
What was it about this Carpenter Gothic home that inspired Grant Wood? Also known as The Dibble House, the little white house in American Gothic boasts a large Gothic-style window in its upstairs. While the rest of the house is mostly obscured, the Gothic window is a focal point of the painting, drawing the eye up and over the couple. Darrell Garwood, Woods biographer, claims that it was this window in particular that initially caught the artists eye and inspired him to paint American Gothic. According to Garwood, Wood found the Gothic window to be a form of borrowed pretentiousness, especially in a flimsy frame house such as this. For Wood, this American Gothic house was the perfect subject for satire.
In American Gothic, artist Grant Wood uses the house to paint a satire of small town American life. In Woods opinion, Carpenter Gothic homes were a structural absurdity. It seemed almost offensive to him to see the grandiosity of real Gothic architecture somewhat vulgarly reduced into the cutesy cardboardy frame houses increasingly popular in Eldon and other parts of the Midwest. Though this style of construction was obviously a primarily economical and practical choice for the typical Midwestern American family, Wood takes issue with its lack of authenticity. To him, this style of home is trying to be more dignified, historical and cultured than it really is.
The Woman In The American Gothic Painting Is His Sister
The woman in the American Gothic painting is actually Grant Woods sister named Nan Wood Graham. In the painting, you can see that Grant Wood somewhat elongated the face of his sister Nan. But she is also painted quite stylish with a hairstyle that would have been created with a curling iron during that time.
At the same time, her face is quite sour and almost has meanness to it. She is not looking out in the painting but is clearly glancing away. R. Tripp Evans, a biographer of Grant Wood, in speaking of Nan Wood Graham in painting, said:
When American Gothic was first shown in 1930, there were critics who said that she looked like the missing link, that her face would turn milk sour.
Nan Wood Graham spent her life as her brothers historian. In fact, she was the person who helped ensured the Dibble House in the American Gothic painting did not get lost and was remembered.
Also Check: State Grants For Small Businesses
It Was Painted In The Heart Of The Depression
At the time of the painting, it was the Great Depression . Farmers were losing their farms, and people had no work as many lost their homes and livelihood. In speaking about the man and the woman in the painting and the perilous times of the Great Depression, it was said:
Yet Wood intended it to be a positive statement about rural American values, an image of reassurance at a time of great dislocation and disillusionment. The man and woman, in their solid and well-crafted world, with all their strengths and weaknesses, represent survivors.
How Grant Woods American Gothic Continues To Inspire Artists
Ever since it was first displayed at the Art Institute Chicago in 1930, Grant Woods iconic painting American Gothic has captured the collective imagination. The painting, featuring a pitchfork-bearing farmer and his daughter standing in front of a Midwestern farmhouse, has become a symbol of American identity. Even in its own time, the image represented a kind of authenticity that instantly connected with its audiences.
The famous painting remains on display at the AIC to this day. Sarah Kelly Oehler, the museums curator of American Art, explained in a 2019 article why Woods work immediately resonated with American audiences when it was unveiled in 1930.
The year before, the stock market had crashed, banks were failing, and the country was sinking further and further into the Great Depression, Oehler wrote. There was a real sense of desperation around the country and a sense of wanting to return to authentic American values. Wood tapped into that in this painting of two people in Iowa standing in front of an old house.
Nearly 100 years later, fewer people can directly relate to the paintings subjects, but the iconic image has been fodder for generations of pastiche that play off of and into the originals status of depicting real America.
Brick artist Nathan Sawaya, internationally famous for his LEGO art, has his own version of the painting, bringing it into blocky three-dimensions.
Recommended Reading: Grants For Single Moms Texas
Wood Satirized American Culture
Was American Gothic a satire, mocking the small-minded hostility and provincialism of rural America with a pair of austere and territorial people? Or was Wood simply documenting the traditional values that persisted throughout the less urbanized states? That so much of the painting was a staged set-up suggests Wood knew there would be an element of fakery to the final image. Art critic and writer Gertrude Stein was one of many who deemed the painting a, devastating satire. And although Wood refused to be entirely direct about the paintings intentions, he later confessed with some reluctance, There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement.
Introduction To The Artist
Grant Wood, who produced American Gothic in 1930, was a Regionalist artist who focused on the rural communities across the US. His earliest employment was as an artist within the military but he would go on to set up as a professional independent artist with his own studio. His oeuvre is filled with portraits of locals from his native Iowa as well as landscape scenes which capture the rolling hills of this attractive environment. Wood himself was born into a farming community and so understood the mentality of this region perfectly. Although he spent several years learning artistic ideas across Europe in the 1920s, he would return to the US and continued to focus on native content. American Gothic arrived relatively early in his career, and was one of his best examples in how he could precisely capture the mood of those living around him. It may have been his travels abroad which made some of these intricate details clearer to him. He would become highly regarded within Iowa and has been bestowed many awards in his name in the years that have passed since his career took hold. The artwork shown here has, by itself, raised his reputation and prominence from notable national artist to an internationally known painter.
Recommended Reading: Amazon Grants For Black-owned Businesses
Why Is This Famous Painting By Grant Wood Called American Gothic
The painting takes its name from the architectural style Carpenters Gothic. Its sometimes also called Rural Gothic*. This was the inspiration for the painting. Wood chose the couple to fit the house setting rather than the other way around. The titles especially appropriate because it refers to Gothic revival building practices. It wouldnt have been enough to just call it Gothic. Original Gothic architecture blossomed in the European Middle Ages. Anything like it across the pond these days is a mere copy. This farmhouse sets a perfect example of this. Its how builders in the late 1800s United States honored the grand styles of old Europes architecture.
In What Context Did Grant Wood Paint This Canvas
Grant Wood was an American painter known for his rural Midwest representations. After growing up on a farm in Iowa, he trained in the visual arts and then went to study in Europe in the 1920s. This trip allowed him to discover Flemish paintings, the German Renaissance and the New Objectivity, an artistic movement that developed in Germany and succeeded Expressionism.
In 1930, he painted American Gothic, at the very beginning of the Great Depression, the economic crisis that followed the stock market crash of 1929 and plunged the American rural world into great poverty.
Recommended Reading: Small Business Grants For Women
Th And 21st Centuries
1900 to 1939
During and the 1920s there was a major expansion in industry. The availability of jobs attracted African Americans from the . Between 1910 and 1930, the African American population of Chicago increased dramatically, from 44,103 to 233,903. This had an immense cultural impact, called the , part of the , in art, literature, and music. Continuing racial tensions and violence, such as the , also occurred.
The ratification of the 18th amendment to the Constitution in 1919 made the production and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal in the United States. This ushered in the beginning of what is known as the Gangster Era, a time that roughly spans from 1919 until 1933 when was repealed. The 1920s saw , including , , and battle law enforcement and each other on the streets of Chicago during the . Chicago was the location of the infamous in 1929, when Al Capone sent men to gun down members of a rival gang, North Side, led by Bugs Moran.
Chicago was the first American city to have a homosexual-rights organization. The organization, formed in 1924, was called the . It produced the first American publication for homosexuals, . Police and political pressure caused the organization to disband.
In 1933, Chicago Mayor was fatally wounded in , during a attempt on President-elect . In 1933 and 1934, the city celebrated its centennial by hosting the International Exposition . The theme of the fair was technological innovation over the century since Chicago’s founding.
Other Famous Paintings By Grant Wood
Stone City, Iowa, Young Corn and Fall Plowing are amongst the best examples of Grant Wood’s landscape paintings. They offer bright palettes with contemporary forms and present his local area in a positive manner. There is nothing of the toil that one might find elsewhere on agricultural topics, where peasants work so hard for little return. There is an abundance of space and light, with people living simple but relatively happy lives. We can then examine some of his more famous portraits which, like American Gothic, provide an intimate view into the lives of ordinary folk. Daughters of Revolution, Woman with Plants and Arnold Comes of Age are some good examples of that and we immediately witness a relatively reserved set of personalities on show. The happiness of the landscape scenes is replaced by a slight melancholy in many of these artworks, as people’s gazes drift off into the background, just as was common at that time. The Appraisal is perhaps the best example of where Grant Wood diverged from this atmosphere and provided a more upbeat view of local people, as two women interact in bright sunshine.
Recommended Reading: Grant Writer Job Description Non Profit
Masterpiece In Detail: American Gothic By Grant Wood
This week, KAZoARTs editorial team has chosen to explore one of the best-known paintings of the 20th century.Even if you dont know the name of the painting or its painter, you will almost certainly have seen it somewhere before. American Gothic is a 1930s artwork that has inspired endless reinterpretations in pop culture and which continues to stand out for its modernity. KAZoART offers a detailed analysis to uncover its secrets.
Who Are The Characters Depicted In This Painting
Mystery surrounds the two figures in the painting: who are the woman with the worried look and the man with glasses staring at us? Are they a couple or friends? The man is older, so it is possible that we are looking at a father and his unmarried daughter.
The man is dressed in overalls but also in a black jacket, while the woman is wearing a piece of jewellery: they have made an effort to dress up, perhaps for the painter or to celebrate an important moment in their lives.
To create them, Grant Wood had his dentist Dr McKeeby and his sister Nan pose.
Recommended Reading: Gibson Grant Homes For Sale
You Can Visit The Actual American Gothic House
Today the American Gothic house is placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for visitors. The Address of the American Gothic House is:
Address: 300 American Gothic Street, Eldon, Iowa
Those interested in visiting the house can check out the American Gothic House website by . Eldon, Iowa, is located about 2 hours outside Des Moines, Iowa.
Visitors to the house can dress up as if they were in the actual American Gothic painting and get their pictures taken outside the house. The house also has a visitor center with information about the Dibble house and the American Gothic painting. There is also a small gift shop.
Portraits Of America: Grant Woods American Gothic
As we move into the full swing rollercoaster of election season, with candidates of both stripes seeking to convince the everyman, up and down and across the United States, that they are the best servers and custodians of the nations interests, we look at some iconic Twentieth Century artworks, considered, both at the time of their making and today, to be emblematic of American-ness. What that means depends largely on the work itself, and the manner in which the artist has chosen to represent their very own understanding of this notion. Sometimes satirical, often poignant, always compelling, Portraits of America shows us the many faces of a nation that, one way or another, is at the forefront of a global consciousness.
We should fear Grant Wood. Every artist and every school of artists should be afraid of him, for his devastating satire.
You May Like: Foster Grant Mckay Multi Focus Reading Glasses
Similar Artists At Kazoart: Les Duf By Armel Jullien
This oil painting depicts Mr and Mrs Dufournier, nicknamed the Dufs, who played the role of grandparents for the artist. The strange atmosphere recalls the man and woman in Woods painting, seen here in Haute-Loire, France, where the KAZoART artist lives. Once again, we find ourselves wondering what is going on in the minds of the quiet, rural characters, the heirs of a now somewhat outdated era.
Culture And Contemporary Life
The city’s waterfront location and nightlife has attracted residents and tourists alike. Over a third of the city population is concentrated in the lakefront neighborhoods from in the north to in the south. The city has many upscale dining establishments as well as many ethnic restaurant districts. These districts include the neighborhoods, such as along 18th street, and La Villita along 26th Street the enclave of in the neighborhood , along South , immediately west of downtown , along Taylor Street in in in around Lawrence Avenue near in Uptown and the area, along in .
Downtown is the center of Chicago’s financial, cultural, governmental and commercial institutions and the site of and many of the city’s skyscrapers. Many of the city’s financial institutions, such as the and the , are located within a section of downtown called “”, which is an eight-block by five-block area of city streets that is encircled by elevated rail tracks. The term “The Loop” is largely used by locals to refer to the entire downtown area as well. The central area includes the , the , and the , as well as the Loop. These areas contribute famous , abundant restaurants, , , a for the , , , and .
contains the and the . The features the nation’s largest concentration of contemporary art galleries outside of New York City.
Recommended Reading: Hud First Time Home Buyer Grant
The Story Between The Man And Woman Is Unclear
There is a lot of speculation and ambiguity about the relationship between the man and the woman in the painting. He looks so much older than her. So are they husband and wife? Or are they father and daughter? This upset many Iowa housewives at the time as they felt he was painting them as being with only older men.
Grant Wood could have easily have cleared this up. Still, he allowed ambiguity about their relationship to remain as he understood it would only continue to pique the paintings interest. We know that the subjects never modeled together, as they both modeled and were painted separately.