American Gothic - Grant Wood. 74 x 62 cm
Without exaggeration, we can say that the picture "American Gothic" is one of the most recognizable in the world, comparable to the "Gioconda" by Da Vinci, the "Kiss" by Munch or the "Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo. Over the years of its existence, the masterpiece has been the victim of many parodies and memes. There is even a very sinister interpretation of the plot. But what is the meaning of the author himself in his "American Gothic"?
The painting was created in 1930 during the Great Depression. In the city of Eldon, Grant Wood noticed a neat house, created in the style of a Gothic carpentry. The artist wanted to depict the house and its potential residents - father and daughter, an old maid (according to other sources, this is a wife and husband). As the models were the painter's sister and his personal dentist. The unusual exposition of the picture is nothing more than an imitation of photographs of those years.
The heroes are depicted very clearly. A man looks at the viewer, the pitchfork is tightly pressed in his hands. A woman with a strict beam at the back of her head looks away, she has an apron with an old-fashioned pattern on it. The author allowed only one bunch to break out of the girl’s laconic hairstyle. In the harsh faces of the heroes and their compressed lips, many art critics find hostility and outright ugliness. Other very authoritative researchers guessed in the work of the satire on the excessive isolation and limitedness of the inhabitants of small towns.
Meanwhile, Wood himself complained that the public misinterpreted his work - he saw in the villagers that very effective force that could withstand the economic problems that caused the Great Depression. These residents of towns and villages are determined and courageous to deal with problems. The artist said that the heroes of his work are a collective image that he associates with all of America. However, the residents of the town of Elton did not heed the author’s explanations, they were outraged and angry at the way Wood introduced them in his work.
Is it a daughter or a wife? The answer to this question is also very interesting. The viewer is inclined to “read” this heroine as a wife, while Wood's sister, who was a model, insisted that she was a daughter. She just wanted to see herself in the famous work younger, because during posing she was only 30 years old.
Forks are the central element of the picture. The strict, straight lines of the teeth of this agricultural tool are read in other details of the canvas. The seams of the man's shirt almost perfectly follow the contours of the pitchfork. It seems that all the work consists of turning to straight vertical lines - the exterior of the house, the spire, elongated windows and the characters themselves. Dentist Byron McKeeby, whom we see in the image of a father-husband, recalled that the artist once noted: he likes his face, because it consists entirely of straight lines.
The audience was interested in the work of Grant Wood, as soon as she appeared at the exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. This is striking, but not everyone agreed with the author’s interpretation of the work, although they recognized that the painter was able to “grab” the American national spirit very accurately. After the Great Depression gave way to a normal stable life, the viewer was finally able to see the picture through the eyes of the creator, to see not stern, but unshakable Americans who are ready not to fight, but to confront all troubles.