American Gothic Grant Wood Critique Essay

An analysis of the picture painted by Grant Wood American Gothic was painted by Grant Wood in 1930. When looking at the painting you can see two persons that obviously appear as how two persons would have looked like in the 1930s. They are simple living people, dependant on their routines and clearly living on the countryside. The man holds a pitchfork in his hand and wears typical

farmer clothes and the woman wears characteristic housewife clothing. The painting does not really provide other information in addition to than the one&#8217;s presented in the beginning.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The painting offers a distinct description of the rural life with contrasting point of views which in whole signifies the typical life in America in early 20th century. The two persons seen on the picture symbolizes the average American that ever so often lived on the country. There are obvious connections between the different compositions of the painting. Every detail is related to another that belongs in a long chain of associated details.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Husband and wife or father and daughter? Nobody really knows what relationship the two persons on the painting have to each other, even though I think they are related more at a father-daughter level. I have made this conclusion because my interpretation of the male on the painting is that he is defensive, standing a bit in front of the female. He has a facial expression that is rather protective and he is simultaneously staring at us intently, even menacingly, as an animal watching over his children, showing how his true animal instincts take effect when the matter comes to protection of the family domain. Anyway, the woman and the man symbolize the importance of families. However, as seen on the picture, they were not that big of a family due to several possible reasons. Maybe because of bad times in economy or farming. The pitchfork represents the work men perform and the sweat they secrete to provide their families, but it also defines the masculinity of the character and even the evil we can identify us with that pervades the hostile world we live in.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The hard grip which the man holds the pitchfork with shows how the pair as individuals, but also as a community since they represent the average American, had to work hard for their own well being. You can see in their facial expressions that they are a little worn out and tired, maybe even to some extent miserable. Possibly a result of their dissatisfaction of their living conditions while working so hard. The neatly clothed woman is positioned a little bit in the background and officially she is in a subordinate position compared to the male. Even though the female is standing one step below than the male on the family hierarchy, I think that she is representing authority in the family; it is the females who do all the work at home, keeping everything in place and order, physically and mentally. But still, a lock has escaped her collected bunch of hair, showing that she is just as human as everybody else, full of faults her too, but that doesn&#8217;t affect her self-righteousness with what she does.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">What more is that she has blue eyes, which helps us to identify her as quite naive. She believes in what she hears without being critical to the source. While having an overview when puzzling the pieces that holds in the analysis of the woman we can reflect to religion in one way or another. Since the gothic house in the background of the painting is not complete, the roof is not fully visible, we can not really tell what kind of house it is, it just might be a church. This states that religion is important in America, for the family as well for the government since the females represents authority in general. This combined with her, the peoples, naivety marks that they lay all their trust in God, independent of the improvable existence of a higher being.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">There are cultural as well as social collisions in American Gothic.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">I said before that the persons on the painting are a bit sad, and taking into consideration when the painting is created we can somehow correlate the painting with the American depression that raged throughout the United States from 1929, when the stock market crashed, to 1941 as America decided to join the second World War after they had been bombed in Pearl Harbour by the Japans. What more is the cultural conflict within the painting, for example the big difference between the American lifestyle and European architecture of the house. Nevertheless the parts don&#8217;t match together they stand for unity and maybe as a token of the relationship between the United States and Europe.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">These theories are based upon my own interpretation of the painting, but I think that American Gothic generally is analyzed as an American self-image because the painting captures so many of the old traditional values in it. Whether Grant Wood&#8217;s intention was to symbolize any of these things or not is not of importance since the painting has more impact than the artist.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">All in all the painting is quite empty, there is no certain symbolism embedded in addition to the pitchfork and the gothic window. It is the details that are important to look for, and they can be analyzed differently depending on what person that is viewing the painting. We all have our own ideals and the world affects us differently. Therefore the viewer can interject whatever interpretation he or she wants. The picture is a mystery that you are to solve for yourself.</p>

“Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.” This is a quote by Dutch painter and Etcher. There have been several painters who focused on the atmosphere of the locations or spots that they chose to draw on their canvas. However, some of the painters founded themselves mysteriously involved into the environments of places that they visited. One of those painters is Grand Wood, who painted the American Gothic. Wood made certain atmosphere the bases of his painting and through his unique style of painting impressed everyone who liked good artwork. As a result, the painting stands amongst the likes of Mona Lisa and other highly famous paintings today.

American Gothic by Grant Wood
American Gothic by Grant Wood is one of the most famous painting in the history of arts. The Art Gallery of Chicago is the place where American Gothic was displayed for the very first time and it is the very gallery that still keeps the painting. In search of visiting a fine piece of art, in person, I visited the Art Gallery of Chicago. There, along with many other paintings, American Gothic was also displayed for the visitors to see.

Experiencing American Gothic through Computer VS in Person
When I visited the gallery 263 and finally looked at the American Gothic painting by myself, I realized the importance of seeing an artwork by one’s own eyes instead of looking at in on a computer or in books. The painting made that was oil painted on Beaver Board was 78 x 65.3 cm in size and there was the signature of Grant Wood on the lower right corner on the canvas along with the year 1930. Since I was there just to see and analyze the American Gothic, I stayed in front of the painting after other visitors moved towards other paintings.

Masterpiece Turned Into Senseless Parodies
As we all know there have been countless parodies of the American Gothic out there, some of which are harmless parodies while many of them are totally absurd attempts. After looking at the painting for several minutes I got a bit uncomfortable because I found the two characters (Painter’s sister and his dentist) a bit creepy. The way the lady is looking at her father, who seems to be a hardworking farmer, and way the farmer is looking at us holding a pitchfork in his hand is what gives the painting another meaning than just two individuals standing in front of a farmhouse made using Carpet Gothic style. However, creating parody after parody by different people is what I find disrespectful to the legendary art such as this one. If you praise something, you should respect it and not make fun of it or use it is a source of humor because I found everything in the American Gothic but humor.

Existence of Conflict in Concern with the Expectations of Society Earlier we have discussed themes and roles of the artist that conflicted within the expectations of society. If we talk about whether or not the American Gothic had elements that conflicted within the expectations of society, we would have to say yes. For the reason that not everyone sees a particular thing in the same way, various people perceive certain things in different manners. Same is the case with American Gothic as Lunday, in one of her most interesting articles said that; “Some perceived the work as a scathing parody of the Midwest—one outraged farm wife even threatened to bite off Wood’s ear.” (Lunday, 2012)

The Fame and Acceptance Earned By the Artwork
There is a complicit that American Gothic holds within the expectations of society. However, the amount of praise this painting has received completely outweighs the negative remarks or reviews that it received. As Lunday mentions in the very article ‘Honest and Creepy, Satire and Homage: Grant Wood’s American Gothic’: “Meanwhile, Gertrude Stein and other critics praised the painting as a cutting small-town satire, the visual equivalent of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. Still others saw the painting as honoring the Midwest and its strong values.” She furthermore said; “During the Great Depression, the masterpiece gave hope to a desperate nation, and it helped shape the notion of the Midwest as a land of hard work and honest values. Today, the painting is firmly embedded in our cultural vocabulary.” (Lunday, 2012)

Without Atmosphere a Painting Is Nothing
It is apparent that Wood believed that the environment of a painting is the most important element of a painting. This particular painting proves this point as the painter chose his dentist and his sister as his subjects just because there was no other model available to pose for the painting in front of the wood farmhouse. Wood took help of his mother in making his paintings as she would agree to become the subject for many of Wood’s paintings. However, while Wood decided to paint the American Gothic, he realized that his mother won’t be able to stand in the field for that long while he paints, so he chose his sister instead. Wood chose his dentist and his sister because he couldn’t afford to lose the opportunity of painting the Carpenter Gothic style farmhouse that he came across while visiting the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa. This reminds me of a quote by Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, which seems completely fitting to what Grant Wood was all about: “Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.”

― Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn
Wood’s imagination was wide-ranging. He foresaw the fame and acceptance that this particular painting will get by analyzing the environs around the wood farmhouse. When he saw the house’s strange yet compelling arched window in the Carpenter Gothic style, the first thing that came to his mind was to find out what sort of people lived there. However, instead of knocking on the door, the painter decided to capture the farmhouse in paint and tease out the story for himself in effort to sort through the puzzle, piece by piece. (Lunday) “I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house. – Grant Wood.

Final Words
American Gothic doesn’t fall in the category of Primitive art as the elements it holds are usually found in such paintings and artworks that are related to modernism. Though countless individuals made parodies of American Gothic but actually the real artwork cannot be copied or reproduced to give another painter fame and fortune. The idea of anchoring a painting on the environs of a farm field and a farmhouse was the creativity of Grand Wood which cannot be repeated again in the history of arts. However, if one bases his art practices around the quote “Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.” there would be minor chances that we might see another painting somewhat as good as American Gothic.

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