Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables
Audio Guide Playlist

Sarah Humphreville: Death on the Ridge Road is the first landscape that Wood paints in his new, reduced landscape style, and by reduced I mean that he's really stripped away a lot of the ornamentation and, in that, vegetation that you see in a lot of his other paintings, so all of the frilly, very precise trees are all of a sudden taken out.

Narrator: Sarah Humphreville.

Sarah Humphreville: And we're left with these expanses of green in the hills as the road moves through the mountains and, really, all that you then see are these cars on a collision course, the very winding road that they're on, and these three telephone poles, and not a whole lot else, and one of the effects of that is that instead of having your attention directed to all parts of the canvas, you really have to focus on this tragic scene in front of you, and Wood painted this in a moment of a lot of personal stress.

One of the things that is very strange about this painting and quite unsettling is that, for all of the action that is inherent in it, it doesn't actually seem like the action is happening. Everything still feels really frozen the way that his other paintings do. I think a lot of that is the way he handles light, and that the light kind of isolates objects from one another.

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