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American Gothic

From Grant Wood to today

In August 1930, Grant Wood, an American painter with European training, was driven around Eldon, Iowa, by a young painter from Eldon, John Sharp. Looking for inspiration, Grant noticed the Dibble House, a small white house built in the Carpenter Gothic architectural style. He decided to paint it along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.”

Grant recruited his sister Nan to model the woman, dressing her in a colonial print apron mimicking 19th-century Americana. The man is modeled on his dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nan, perhaps embarrassed about being depicted as the wife of a man twice her age, told people that her brother had envisioned the couple as father and daughter, rather than husband and wife, which Grant seems to confirm in his letter to a Mrs. Nellie Sudduth in 1941. Anyway, the result is one of the most familiar images in 20th-century American art, and of course one of the widely parodied in American popular culture and beyond…

Mona Lisa
Bruce Wayne

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