Introduction – not an assignment for class; should give an overview of all elements of the paper stated as a thesis.
Can a painting represent the REAL America, the Heartland of our great country? American Gothic is considered by some to do just that; it is a shining example of the artist’s refusal to adhere to either the urban infatuation with abstraction or the stale conventions of realism prevalent in America during his lifetime. The painting exemplifies Wood’s individual style and his commitment to Regionalism. American
Gothic has become an American icon, recognizable instantly, the subject of numerous parodies and the best-known visual stereotype of the American Midwest.
Discussion of the art movement- class assignment due 11/26
Regionalism was an American art movement that thrived during the Great Depression. The three most prominent American Regionalist painters were Grant Woods, Thomas Hart Benton,, and John Steuart Curry. Regionalism was a Midwestern art movement and all three painters resided in the Midwest. Regionalist art offered “reassuring images of the American heartland” during a time of sorrow and chaos in America. American Regionalism is characterized by American subject matter and symbolism; while realistic, the colors and expressiveness veer from traditional realistic conventions. (Regionalist Artists)
Discussion of the SCOPE of the artist’s work- class assignment due 12/12
Woods made jewelry and even painted the camouflage for tanks and planes when he served in the army during World War 1. He traveled to Europe to study the earlier paintings of prominent French Impressionists. When he returned to America, he found his true love was painting pictures of the people and places that comprise America’s Heartland. In addition to painting landscapes and portraits, he depicted scenes of American legends such as his painting Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Grant Woods
also created a series of captivating stone lithograph prints, and is known for his design of one the largest stained glass windows ever made. (Grant Wood)
Discussion of the the artist’s style including a quote by the artist if possible- class
assignment due 12/16 This may be combined in your paper with the paragraph on the scope of the artists work if so desired.
Known for his use of traditional American symbols and personalized Midwestern landscapes, many of Wood’s paintings portray the rolling cornfields of the Midwest, architectural structures typical of American farms, and clothing details endemic to the area. While a brilliant draftsman, Wood’s priority was to capture the emotion and experience of a person, event, or place, not to create a photo-realistic image. Grant Woods said of his work, “All my pictures are first planned as abstractions ….When I think it's a sound design, then I start very cautiously making it look like nature. But I'm so afraid of being photographic that maybe I stop too soon." (Jordan)
Critique – class assignment due 12/19 First paragraph is the FORM analysis and talks about the medium, subject, and use of principles of design. Second paragraph is the content and talks about the paintings historical value and place in our culture.
American Gothic is a 1930 oil painting on canvas, 29 7/8 by 24 7/8 inches in size, that currently resides at the Art Institute of Chicago and depicts a small town couple (or father and daughter?) posed before a farmhouse. In the distance, rolling hills, a church steeple and a plain angular building can be glimpsed. The “farmer” holds a three-
pronged pitchfork. The distant steeple on the right, pointed gothic farmhouse window in the center, and angular roof of the building on the left echo the three pronged imagery of the pitchfork, creating a sense of rhythm. The pitchfork design is further repeated in the reversed framework of the gothic window placed squarely between the faces of the man and woman depicted. There is a stark contrast between the dark fabric of the models’ clothing and the light blues and greens of the landscape behind them. The artist emphasizes the triangular shape of the rooftop behind the models with each face set at an alternate side of the triangle’s base. (American Gothic)
American Gothic remains an instantly recognizable American painting, one that continues to provoke speculation. Initially, many Iowa farmwomen reacted by writing angry letters to Woods; they believed the painting mocked the severity and strong ethics of the Midwestern farmwoman. Many people wondered who the models actually were- was it a painting of a farm couple, or a father and daughter? Grant Woods later revealed that his sister posed as the woman and his dentist as the farmer, but he failed to satisfy inquiries as to whether he intended the painting to portray a couple or a father and daughter. Some viewers believe the painting to be a romanticized version of Midwestern life while others though Woods was poking fun at Midwesterners. The painting has been the subject of numerous parodies and has been used in advertisements and commercials,
the most notable being the 1960’s Kellogg’s corn flakes commercial. The painting was sold to the Art Institute in Chicago for $300 and remains there today. (Artist’s Profile)
Conclusion- restates the introduction – not a separate assignment for class
American Gothic remains a classic American work of art, a solidly composed Regionalist painting of the 1930’s that exemplifies the unique style of Grant Woods and continues to appeal to America’s psyche.
Works cited page is due 12/23 as a separate class assignment
American Gothic: The Art Institute of Chicago. Sister Wendy’s American Collection.
December 12, 2008.
Artist’s Profile: Grant Woods. Arttalk.com. December 12, 2008.
Grant Wood. The Grant Wood Art Gallery. December 2008.
Jordan, Larry. Grant Woods Revisited. The Midwest Today. April/May 1996. December
Regionalist Artists. An introduction to art history, styles and movements.
ARTINTHEPICTURE.COM. December 2008.
< http://www.artinthepicture.com/styles/Regionalism/. >