It's called the Mona Lisa of American art.
Grant Wood won $300 for his oil painting, "American Gothic," when it was unveiled at the Art Institute Of Chicago in 1930. Since then, the painting has gone on to become one of the most recognizable examples of American art and in particular the movement known as "Regionalism". This movement was centered on the portrayal of American subjects in a representational style as opposed to an abstract style which was popular in European art.
The story behind the painting, though modest, like the work itself, is pretty interesting. Wood was visiting Eldon, Iowa when he first stumbled upon the little wooden farmhouse. What struck him immediately was the large, lone window, that was reflective of the Carpenter Gothic style.
According to Eldon: “I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house."
The house is known as the Dibble House, and it is the juxtaposition of the "pretentious" Gothic window set against this modest wooden home that compelled Wood to sketch the house and then paint it, using his sister and his dentist to pose. Most people assume the people in the painting are man and wife, but they're intended to portray a father and daughter. What most people don't actually know is that Wood had quite the sweet tooth, and so his dentist was a pretty prominent feature in his life.
According to the Art Institute of Chicago:
The highly detailed, polished style and the rigid frontality of the two figures were inspired by Flemish Renaissance art, which Wood studied during his travels to Europe between 1920 and 1926. After returning to settle in Iowa, he became increasingly appreciative of midwestern traditions and culture, which he celebrated in works such as this. American Gothic, often understood as a satirical comment on the midwestern character, quickly became one of America’s most famous paintings and is now firmly entrenched in the nation’s popular culture. 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.
Today when you visit the American Gothic House, there's an on-site visitor center that provides various props, such as period clothing and even a pitchfork so you can have your photo taken in front of this iconic cultural home.
A bit more about Grant: in 1929 he was living in the attic of a funeral home. He used a coffin lid as a door, and shared the place with his mom and sister. Due to the limited space, they slept side-by-side on separate beds. Wood was a closeted gay man who only wore overalls. And during the '20s he spent a considerable time in Paris and Munich. - Roadtrippers Iowa artist Grant Wood sketched this house on a 1930 visit and that summer painted it as the background for his world-famous painting; "American Gothic." The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Center includes American Gothic parodies exhibit; gift shop; and media room with educational films about Grant Wood. Interior of home not open to public. New exhibit on Nan Wood Graham; sister of Grant and one of the faces of American Gothic. See one of her original paintings; listen to an interview with Nan. - American Gothic House
“Grab your pitchforks & stand!”
It's called the Mona Lisa of American art.
When you visit the American Gothic House, there's an on-site visitor center that provides various props, such as period clothing and even a pitchfork so you can have your photo taken in front of it.
Something to see - wish we would have been able to stop there when it was open. Not too far off the beaten path
Visit the American Gothic House between May & July to grab a sweet treat from the Pitchfork Pie Stand, housed inside the home. Be sure to get there early! Pies this delicious go quickly. Read more about the Pitchfork Pie Stand: http://theworldneedsmorepie.com/pitchfork-pie-stand/
Well worth the 10 minute drive off of IA 163. Have some fun with it and ham it up a bit. We got there right at closing time but the staff was more than helpful and willing to dress us up for our own recreation.
The house and the visitor center was beautiful and such a wonderful and unexpected stop on our most recent trip to Southern Iowa. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and funny. I can't wait to visit again!
Great stop if driving in the area.
This house is currently privately owned. Please check before taking photos and Do Not Enter unless you're invited.
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American Gothic House
- Sun, Mon: 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
- Tue - Sat: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
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