Happy Birthday, Grant Wood

Grant Wood [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
American Gothic by Grant Wood

“All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.”

Grant Wood

Grant Wood’s American Gothic is arguably the most recognized painting in 20th-century American art.  It comes from the environment in which Grant Wood was raised: the rural American Midwest.  The story behind the painting goes back to August 1930 when he was visiting Eldon, Iowa.  He was drawn to a small white house, which became the background. His used his sister, Nan, as the model for the woman and his dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby for the man.  While there may be a presumption that this is a husband and wife, in reality the couple is father and daughter.

Art has a way of weaving ideas into the fabric of cultural experience.  When Grant Wood entered American Gothic into a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the judges viewed it as a “comic valentine.”  One savvy patron, however, recognized the painting’s merits and convinced the Art Institute to purchase the painting.  From that point, the painting went viral, with images circulating in the Chicago Evening Post, New York, Boston, Kansas City and Indianapolis.  While Iowans did not fully appreciate the grim-faced couple, art critics Gertrude Stein and Christopher Morley gave their endorsement.

Another reminder that art cannot be contained or structured – art has a life of its own.

10 Comments

    1. Clanmother

      Thank you, Resa! I confess I have known about this painting ever since I was a kid, but I didn’t know the background. I am finding that art appreciation begins with appreciating the artist. The creative endeavour takes on a deeper and broader perspective! I am reading about Klimt and had to smile when he raged against people who purchased art with the intent of matching their furniture. Thanks for creating a blog that celebrates creativity in all of us!

  1. Ms Frances

    You are so correct, this is probably one of the best and well known pieces of American art from the 1900’s. I remember it as a child. Of course being born and raised in the Mid-west, it had special meaning to me. Thank you for its history and introducing me to the artist. So interesting to me! I did not know it was from 1930. I thought it was painted much earlier. Good proof to the painting’s early popularity–I was born in 1931 and I remember it as a child,

      1. Ms Frances

        Milking cows is not that difficult. I am sure Mr. Wood got a lot of his ideas from other sources. i had a look at some of this other master pieces. I am sure ideas came from places other than the cow barn.

      2. Clanmother

        I have a feeling that being with cows has a calming and tranquil effect – which allows the creative spirit to flourish. Didn’t he have a wonderful way of communicating his ideas!

  2. ernstblumenstein

    Diese für mich eher fremdartige einfache aber wunderschöne Malerei über zwei Bauernsleute gefällt mir auf Anhieb. Ich habe von Grant Wood noch nie Bilder gesehen, aber sie sprechen mich sehr an. Danke, liebe Rebecca fürs zeigen und hab eine gute Zeit. Ernst

    1. Clanmother

      Vielen Dank für Ihre Kommentare. Ich habe immer diese Malerei zieht meine Aufmerksamkeit zum Detail zu finden. Erst vor kurzem habe ich beschlossen, die Forschung über die Geschichten hinter dem Kunstwerk zu vollenden . Ich finde, dass so viel trägt zu meinem Verständnis von dem, was der Künstler mir erzählt. Haben Sie einen schönen Tag.

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