“American Gothic”

Grant Wood, “American Gothic” 1930. Oil on beaverboard.

 

First of all, I don’t think you can get more ‘American’ than creating a painting on something called ‘beaverboard!’ This seemingly unassuming work of art has actually been an epicenter of debate ever since its Depression era birth. Wood worked in a style called Regionalism that was a style more central to the mid-Western way of life – a reaction if you will, to the hustle and bustle of urbanism and the roaring 20s. It is intended to be simplistic, moral, and unlike its cousin, Realism, leaving no room for social criticism. However 2 camps have risen from this work: one claiming it is a celebration of American values; the other seeing it as a satire of the American dream and value system. The old farmer and his plain spinster daughter stand idly by, not really bothered by their portrait. Behind them stands their American Gothic Revival farm house (yes, that’s where the name of the work comes from) church-like in stature representing Puritan roots. Debates about traditional gender roles run rampant – going as far as questioning the single curl hanging loosely from the woman’s otherwise starched exterior. Is she perhaps not as uptight as her tight collar suggests?

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