Premiering at the Art Institute of Chicago in October 1930, Grant Wood’s American Gothic captivated the public’s imagination and catapulted Wood into the national spotlight overnight. The painting depicts a couple — modeled on Wood’s sister, Nan, and his Dentist — who stand in front of a Midwestern house. The house is notable for its lone “gothic” window, a typical feature of the then-popular Carpenter Gothic style of architecture, in which gothic elements are used in otherwise simple, modern wood structures.
Wood identified the pair as father and daughter, though the work was initially assumed to be a portrait of a husband and wife. “I simply invented some ‘American Gothic’ people to stand in front of a house of this type,” Wood later explained. From the painting’s debut onward, its meaning has been the subject of endless speculation. What has remained central is its seeming embodiment of something stereotypically American.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables, on View Through June 10th, 2018 at The Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District, NYC.