Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables

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Stone City, 1930

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Narrator: Stone City is the earliest landscape on view in this room—Wood painted it in 1930, the same year as American Gothic. It’s hard-edged and meticulously detailed—both qualities that Wood had come to think of as being distinctly American. The composition reflects Wood’s deep engagement with decoration and design.

Sarah Humphreville: Almost every surface, if it isn't a broad expanse of color, is patterned in some way, so we see on the upper right, all of these circular trees—that are really just reduced to little globs—descend into the background. And we completely understand what they are, but they're very, very stylized, and the plants growing in the foreground take on a kind of note of ornamentation. 

Even in the areas where we do have those flat expanses of color, they still have the kind of sinuous curves that's characteristic of arts and crafts style, and those curves, themselves, become patterns, so we see the road down the middle of the canvas winding us back, we see these hills undulating one on top of each other, in a way that's completely unnatural. All of that detail then gets further carried out exactly to the horizon line, so that you have this overall sense of patterning that feels very realistic, but again, this hyperreality is about as unreal as it can possibly, possibly get.

Aerial view of rural landscape and with some houses.

Narrator: Stone City is the earliest landscape on view in this room—Wood painted it in 1930, the same year as American Gothic. It’s hard-edged and meticulously detailed—both qualities that Wood had come to think of as being distinctly American. The composition reflects Wood’s deep engagement with decoration and design.

Sarah Humphreville: Almost every surface, if it isn't a broad expanse of color, is patterned in some way, so we see on the upper right, all of these circular trees—that are really just reduced to little globs—descend into the background. And we completely understand what they are, but they're very, very stylized, and the plants growing in the foreground take on a kind of note of ornamentation. 

Even in the areas where we do have those flat expanses of color, they still have the kind of sinuous curves that's characteristic of arts and crafts style, and those curves, themselves, become patterns, so we see the road down the middle of the canvas winding us back, we see these hills undulating one on top of each other, in a way that's completely unnatural. All of that detail then gets further carried out exactly to the horizon line, so that you have this overall sense of patterning that feels very realistic, but again, this hyperreality is about as unreal as it can possibly, possibly get.


Grant Wood, Stone City, 1930. Oil on wood, 30 1/4 x 40 in. (76.8 x 101.6 cm). Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska; gift of the Art Institute of Omaha 1930.35. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY