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American Gothic
Man and woman with stern expession stand side-by-side. The man holds a pitch fork.
Artist Grant Wood
Year 1930
Type Oil on beaverboard
Dimensions 78 cm × 65.3 cm (30¾ in × 25¾ in)
Location Art Institute of Chicago

American Gothic is a 1930 painting by Grant Wood in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. It depicts a farmer standing beside his daughter – often mistakenly assumed to be his wife.

American Gothic is one of the most familiar images in 20th-century American art and has been widely parodied in American popular culture. In 2016–17, the painting was displayed in Paris at the Musée de l'Orangerie and in London at the Royal Academy of Arts in its first showings outside the United States.

Creation

Grant Wood
Grant Wood, Self-portrait, 1932, Figge Art Museum

In August 1930, Grant Wood, an American painter with European training, was driven around Eldon, Iowa, by a young painter from Eldon, John Sharp. Looking for inspiration, Wood noticed the Dibble House, a small white house built in the Carpenter Gothic architectural style. After obtaining permission from the Jones family, the house's owners, Wood made a sketch the next day in oil on paperboard from the house's front yard.

He would not return to Eldon again before his death in 1942, although he did request a photograph of the home to complete his painting.

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.

Reception

Wood entered the painting in a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago. A museum patron persuaded the jury to award the painting the bronze medal and $300 cash prize. The patron also persuaded the Art Institute to buy the painting; it remains part of the museum's collection.

The image soon began to be reproduced in newspapers, first by the Chicago Evening Post and then in New York, Boston, Kansas City, and Indianapolis.

Gordon Parks - American Gothic
American Gothic by Gordon Parks was the first prominent parody of the painting

With the onset of the Great Depression, the painting came to be seen as a depiction of steadfast American pioneer spirit.

Parodies

The Depression-era understanding of the painting as a depiction of an authentically American scene prompted the first well-known parody, a 1942 photo by Gordon Parks shot in Washington, D.C.

American Gothic is a frequently parodied image. It has been lampooned in Broadway shows such as The Music Man, television shows such as Green Acres and "The Dick Van Dyke Show". It has also been parodied in marketing campaigns and by couples who recreate the image by facing a camera, one of them holding a pitchfork or other object in its place.

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