February 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grant Wood 

An American painter painted American Gothic—which became an American icon.

Born on this day in 1891, Grant Wood may be known largely for his paintings, but he worked as an artist with printmaking, ink, charcoal, metal, wood, and found objects. He did all kinds of things that involve art skills but that aren't necessarily considered “fine art”—painting advertisements, sketching pictures for fliers, designing stained-glass windows, teaching art, and even serving in the army as a camouflage painter. He even designed corn-themed décor for a hotel!

When it came time to design Iowa's 2004 state quarter, decision makers decided to use a Grant Wood backdrop—and clearly labeled the picture “Grant Wood.”

Grant Wood talked his dentist into posing as a farmer for the painting American Gothic, and his sister Nan posed as the farmer's daughter. Many people think that the painting is a critical comment on the narrow-mindedness and repression of rural America—but Wood himself rejected that interpretation. Some people point out that it displays traditional gender roles, with the farmer holding the pitchfork and the woman wearing an apron, and some people take the painting as honoring steadfast spirit and hard work. Apparently the painting can mean many different things to many different people—and it has been parodied many, many times.

American Gothic was a big hit right away—it created a sensation at an art show, won a prize, and was purchased by the Chicago Art Institute.

Parody the American Gothic Pair

Many artists, both professional and amateur, have created their own versions of this iconic painting. Here are some kids' efforts to inspire you. 

Here and here are some parodies created by adults. (Warning: some of the pieces shown on the YouTube video featured on the latter website are political, and some are gross.)

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