American Gothic (Grant Wood): Painting Parody
What is American Scene painting?
In the 1920s in the United States, abstract art was “the” art of the American art establishment. Most artists, collectors, and museum curators thought of the abstract forms depicted in the paintings as best capturing the nature of the Jazz Age. Realism was “out,” and abstraction was “in.”
There was a small group of painters—Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood, and others—who didn’t agree with the art establishment. They believed that realism was far from dead, and that it was America's answer to a search for a native style of painting.
Benton, Hopper, Curry, and Wood felt that a national style of art in the United States should show Americans at home and at work, in rural settings, doing ordinary, everyday things. Their art became known as the American Scene.
Who was Grant Wood?
Grant DeVolson Wood was born on February 13, 1891 near Anamosa, Iowa. A major proponent of the American Scene, Wood studied painting in Paris, France. After completing his studies, Wood returned to Iowa, preferring rural small-town life to life in a larger city,
Wood wanted to encourage talented artists to continue with their artistic endeavors, so he advocated the organization of competitions among the best painters in each region of the country. He felt that the outcome of such competitions would be the establishment of a national art.
In 1930, Grant Wood rose from relative obscurity as a regional painter to prominence when his painting American Gothic won a bronze medal at an exhibit organized by the Art Institute of Chicago.
American Gothic, a Controversial Painting
American Gothic aroused a storm of contoversy after it was awarded the bronze medal. Many viewers , especially Wood's neighbors in Iowa, considered the painting an insulting cariacature of the people living in rural Iowa. In time, these critics were won over.
The Models for American Gothic
The woman model for American Gothic was Grant Wood's sister, Nan. The man was a Cedar Rapids, Iowa dentist, Dr. B. H. McKeeby, a friend of the artist. While doing my research for this article, I saw a photograph of Wood's sister and Dr. McKeeby standing next to the painting.
Wood stretched his sister's face in the painting, making it longer and narrower. He did nothing to change the face of Dr. McKeeby. The dentist and the farmer in American Gothic look the same, long, narrow face and all.
The Inspiration for American Gothic
Many people think that Grant Wood's inspiration to paint American Gothic was the people in rural Iowa, but this is not the case. The painting was inspired by a house which Wood saw in southern Iowa—a low white farmhouse with a peaked gable and one Gothic window. Wood painted his people to match the house—with long stretched out faces to match the stretched out peaked roof and Gothic window.
A parody is a work of art which ridicules or makes fun of an established work of art. You can read more about parodies and view several examples in my article What is a Parody?.
One of the examples in What is a Parody? is Mount HubPages, a parody I created of Mount Rushmore National Monument. For that parody, I used the faces of four HubPages authors.
I created HubPages Gothic, a parody of American Gothic, for this Hub. My models for the parody are two more of my HubPages author friends, Terrye Toombs (TToombs08) and Vinaya Ghimire (vinayaghimire).
If you have suggestions for famous works of art for which you would like to see me create parodies, please add your suggestions in the comments section at the end of the Hub.