A Moment in Art History: “American Gothic” – The U.S.A.’s Most Iconic Painting?

Like many of you, I’ve found myself with a bit more time on my hands lately. Being a lover of art history, I decided to start a new video project, a Moment in Art History. Each of these videos will focus on a great work from art history; I’ll share the story of the artwork, a bit about the artist and my impressions of the art.

The first artwork in this series is Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” I love this painting, and I’m excited to launch this series with it.

I would love to hear what you think of the video! Leave a comment below.

Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” is arguably one of the most iconic pieces of 20th century American Art. In this Moment in Art History we examine the painting, and learn about the artist’s background.

Art seen in the background of this video

Barn: https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/col…

Landscapes: https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/col…

Glass flower sculpture: https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/col…

Portions of the script for this video were sourced from Wikepedia under the Creative Commons licensing agreement. Source material: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America…, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grant_Wood

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

11 Comments

  1. Loved your video on Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”. I feel the painting captures a brief moment in history. It was interesting to learn of the criticisms Grant Wood faced with this painting. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  2. Thank you Jason. I always enjoy your videos on Art History. It’s interesting to learn the some of the back story surrounding a particular artist or piece of work. I do like the painting and agree with Ilene Reed’s comment, that it captures a brief moment in Iowan history.

  3. I used to show this painting to my High School Art Students and explained to them that it became an American icon depicting the strength and endurance of America coming out of the Depression. They were amazed to find out who the models were for the characters in this painting. I also told them that the farm house that he used in the painting still stands in Iowa.
    I also enjoy Edward Hopper’s work. I have printed pictures of his Night Hawks (1942) and his Early Sunday Morning (1930) hanging in my Art Studio.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this video.

  4. Jason: great art history reflection. American Gothic has been one of my favorites as well since my childhood. And I have seen the original, it’s terrific. Although I must admit I see it as a commentary on the severity of the American spirit. Artists are not always the best interpreters of their own work. But I don’t necessarily think it’s a negative view of Americans. However , given your definition of iconic I would probably be more inclined to say Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn” or one of Jackson Pollack’s action paintings as the iconic American image. Thanks for the stimulating conversation.

  5. Thank you Jason, for taking the time to share. Well researched and well presented. I have seen the painting in person and I agree it is iconic. It’s size, I think, is totally appropriate. Monumental scale is not part of the painting’s impact, and in fact, adds to its influence on the viewer. The painting evokes something in most Americans of our heritage, roots and values. Something that even nearly 100 years ago, was fading. Great video!

  6. Jason thanks, I too like your art history videos. As a sculptor of faces, I always look at the way other artists depict expression. Woods obviously removed the de rigueur smile created by popular photography. In the 19th century, that smile had not yet become established. The camera was invented in 1824, I believe, and early photographic exposure on the negative took longer. People tended to look at the camera deadpan and mostly expressionless. In the 20th century that changed as advertising began to use photographes to sell products and preferred the positive emotional message of a smile. And, of course, cameras shutter speeds improved so it was easy to capture facial expression.
    I’ve contemplated Grant Wood’s painting, American Gothic, quite a bit over the years and convinced myself that he chose the dour expressions as a reaction against the newly established advertising industry’s use of smiles. I’m not sure how ubiquitous that smile was in the 1930s, so maybe I’m incorrect, but I still see the immense expressive impact of those dour steadfast faces as a psychological contrast to the “cheese”y smiles that evolved in popular photography.

  7. Hello Jason,
    Thank you for starting with “American Gothic”. I have been to the Art Institute of Chicago twice and actually spent most of my time mesmerized by this painting. I am an painter in my hometown of Slidell, LA and I wondered both times why am I mesmerized and drawn to this piece. His shadows and light are quite subtle but still strong, he has much realism going on but his trees in the background are a more fantasy type of execution. Some elements are quite detailed while others are more painterly. I find myself doing some of the same techniques without realizing in order to create an illusion that is very realistic but at the same time a little whimsical. I just love this painting and totally appreciate what Grant Wood was going for. By the way, I loved the Winslow Homer’s at the Art Institute of Chicago too!! Very powerful stuff there.

  8. Great video…loved it and look forward to others. I too, consider this an iconic American piece. Interesting information about the backlash. Also, I never knew that the depiction was that of a farmer and his spinster daughter…I always thought the woman was his wife.

  9. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE This! So many things i did not know . . . AND, YOU are a great storyteller/teacher.
    PLEASE do More & More of these.

    Thank You for All You Do!
    -g-

  10. I really enjoyed the video and look forward to the next one. I have a lot of art history to catch up on having come to the arts late in life!

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