Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables

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American Gothic, 1930

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Sarah Humphreville: You have these people who are standing so close to each other that they're really physically overlapping.

Narrator: Sarah Humphreville.

Sarah Humphreville: She's right behind him and isn't engaging with him at all, and he's not engaging with her. She's looking out off to the side at something that—we don't know what it is—with this very kind of grim expression on her face as he's gazing imploringly into you, confronting you in many respects. 

When it was first premiered, it was praised in the Chicago Evening Post, praised as being AMERICAN in all capital letters, and many people from around the country really saw their own experiences in this in a positive way. Critics on the East Coast saw this as this great, biting critique of these people that they assumed to be oppressive and puritanical, and they really delighted in it too. So you had people responding to it from what we say now are both sides of the aisle, interpreting it in different ways, but interpreting it to their own ends, and I think that that openness is a large part of the reason why the work succeeds, both then and now.

Painting of man holding a pitch fork and a woman in front of a house.

Sarah Humphreville: You have these people who are standing so close to each other that they're really physically overlapping.

Narrator: Sarah Humphreville.

Sarah Humphreville: She's right behind him and isn't engaging with him at all, and he's not engaging with her. She's looking out off to the side at something that—we don't know what it is—with this very kind of grim expression on her face as he's gazing imploringly into you, confronting you in many respects. 

When it was first premiered, it was praised in the Chicago Evening Post, praised as being AMERICAN in all capital letters, and many people from around the country really saw their own experiences in this in a positive way. Critics on the East Coast saw this as this great, biting critique of these people that they assumed to be oppressive and puritanical, and they really delighted in it too. So you had people responding to it from what we say now are both sides of the aisle, interpreting it in different ways, but interpreting it to their own ends, and I think that that openness is a large part of the reason why the work succeeds, both then and now.


Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930. Oil on composition board, 30 3⁄4 x 25 3⁄4 in. (78 x 65.3 cm). Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection 1930.934. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph courtesy Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY