Grant Wood - American GothicOil on fibreboard, 1930, 78 x 65.3 cm, Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, 1930

Happy family


Description and interpretation of the famous painting 'American Gothic' by Grant Wood!

Grant Wood - American Gothic

It is one of the most staged and received images of American pop culture and immediately made his hitherto unknown painter Grant Wood famous.

American Gothic is a family portrait depicting a farmer and his daughter in front of a wooden house with a large central window in the Carpenter Gothic style. Wood discovered the house by chance in the town of Eldon, Iowa, and designed the figures according to his idea of the inhabitants of the house. He was modelled by his sister Nan and his dentist. With the latter, he was particularly fascinated by the long, straight face, which focuses the viewer with a certain gaze. He firmly encloses the handle of the pitchfork, which he holds upright in front of his body. A symbol for the practice of his profession. The farmer's daughter, however, did not focus her gaze on the observer, but lets him glide past him. A seemingly skeptical expression lies in her eyes. Wood dressed both persons according to the dress style of the old photographs of his family album. Not only the clothing corresponds to the style, but also the composition is based on old portrait photography.

The detailed elaboration of the figures and the frontality of these correspond to the Flemish Renaissance style from which the painter was inspired during his journey through Europe from 1920-26.

Although Wood wanted his painting to make a positive statement about the American Midwest and its rural inhabitants, it is persistently misunderstood. So many people see it more as a satirical commentary, as a picture of cheering up in times of great volatility and crisis in the early 20th century after the First World War.

© the artinspector / laura gerstmann