American Gothic Americans – in Art & Travel (Grant Wood; Iowa, USA)

Cher’s Famous Art

14 November 2020

“American Gothic”

Grant Wood, 1930, American Regionalism

Following our on-going colorful and contested election of 2020, with so much focus on the rural/urban divisions, I selected this painting for its symbolism. 

Fundamental American Values

Although initially criticized for possibly poking fun at rural America, this iconic image soon came to be recognized as a celebration of the kind of fundamental American values that our country still thrives upon.  Painted during a time of great dislocation and disillusionment (1930), the man and woman, in their solid and well-crafted world, with all their strengths and weaknesses, represent survivors. Americans, red or blue or purple,  are survivors.

Who is this Famous Couple?

One of the most parodied paintings in the world – how many times have you seen (or yourself posed for) some version of this iconic pose?? The question is often asked: who is this famous couple?  The couple is actually the artist’s daughter and his dentist as models, dressed like they stepped out of an old family album!  It is an actual house in small town, southern Iowa that inspired him to paint it and the kind of people he imagined should live there!  

In contrast to many artists of the era who were painting city life and industrialization as subject matter, Wood chose to concentrate on a more traditional American life style.  His famous oil painting (on beaverboard) won a prize, instant fame, and was first displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930 where one can still see it today. (artic.edu)

Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA – exterior with iconic lions at their entrance

The Real American Gothic House

The American Gothic House, also known as the Dibble House, is a real house located at 300 American Gothic Street, Eldon, IA 52554. With its distinctive upper window, it is designed in the Carpenter Gothic style in 1882. The architects were local carpenters, Busey and Herald. The American Gothic House Visitor Center is next door and open to the public. (americangothichouse.org)

TRAVELER TIPS: IOWA ARTS – If one is interested in a scenic road trip, one can drive by this famous house in Eldon, Iowa, take some corny selfies, visit the Visitor center – and also experience some additional “cultural literacy” by crossing some of the many covered Bridges of Madison County on the way!   “Bridges of Madison County” is both a best-selling book and award-winning movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, 1995). Also, Iowa interstate rest stops have some really fun art displays to incorporate into your travels: https://mnprairieroots.com/2017/06/07/the-art-of-an-interstate-rest-stop-in-iowa/

More Iowa Places of cultural literacy!

The Bridges of Madison County

The Bridges

The Bridges of Madison County (primarily Roseman Bridge and Holliwell Bridge) are located in Madison County Iowa. Most of the bridges are on dirt roads located all around Winterset, the largest town in the county, and about 30 miles southwest of Des Moines. (For a road trip, Eldon is about 2 hours west of Winterset)

The Novel, the Film

The Bridges of Madison County is a 1995 American romantic drama film based on the 1992 best-selling novel of the same name by Robert James Waller. It was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also starred in it with Meryl Streep. The screenplay was adapted by Richard LaGravenese.

Movie discussion points are available at Travel Tips

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