Grant Wood’s "American Gothic" Essay

Grant Wood’s "American Gothic" Essay

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Grant Wood’s American Gothic is one of the most famous paintings in the history of American art. The painting brought Wood almost instant fame after being exhibited for the first time at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930. It is probably the most reproduced and parodied works of art, and has become a staple within American pop-culture. The portrait of what appears to be a couple, standing solemnly in front of their mid-western home seems to be a simplistic representation of rural America. As simple as it sounds, when looking deeper into this image, it reveals something much more complex.
The first thing to notice about this painting is how incredibly involved and realistic the brushwork is. The couple’s faces are so delicately rendered. Every wrinkle is visible and every hair strand is in it’s place. The soft folds and patterns of their clothing, and the grain of the vertical boards on the house, are highly developed and reveal Wood’s incredible attention to detail. The man, especially, appears to be nearly photorealistic.
There is, however, a slight opposition to this intense realism. It can be seen in Wood’s representation of foliage. The trees that appear in the upper left corner look like large green lollipops peeking over the roof of the house. The viewer knows that trees do not naturally look like that. Wood has depicted them as stylized and modern, similar to the trees seen is Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grand Jatte. After viewing other works by Wood, it is clear that he has adopted this representation for the trees in many of his paintings.
One of the most prominent features of the painting is the use of repetition. In the forefront of the picture plane we see a three-pronged pitchfork. That sam...

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...e that way, due to the modern conveniences such as automobiles and the telephone, and wanted to pay homage to his more primitive childhood. It is hard to say what exactly it means considering Wood left us very little to go on. He died an early death and had apparently not spoken too much about his intentions of the painting.
They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. If that is true, I would have to say that many people praise American Gothic every day. It is parodied in the political cartoons of the newspapers around the country and on television as well. Almost anyone could recognize the solemn couple from having been printed on everything from coffee mugs to mousepads. Grant Wood’s classic tale of a farming family in rural Iowa has truly
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become a staple in modern American culture, as well as a highly revered Regionalist masterpiece.

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