Melissa Gray provided this background in an NPR story on the piece:
Traveling the Iowa landscape in the summer of 1930, Wood happened upon a house in Eldon that caught his fancy. "He was riding around downtown and happened to spot this place," says Bruce Thiher, the town's postmaster and the proprietor of the American Gothic House, still standing today under the ownership of the state of Iowa. It was, says Thiher, "a modest-style house with a gothic-style window across the street from the stockyards, and he found the whole placement of the thing rather amusing. I've been told that the window came as a kit out of a Sears Roebuck catalogue."
Wood intended his title as a visual pun: that upstairs window, with its pointed arch, is of the Gothic architectural style, a reference that finds multiple counterpoints in figures standing in the foreground. The three-pronged pitchfork is one obvious example, but look more closely and you'll see echoes of the design on the face of the man, the bib of his overalls, and the lines on his shirt. In fact, the straightforward Gothic style extends to the directness of the painting itself.
|Grant Wood, right, and fellow artist John Steuart Curry in Stone City, Iowa, 1933.|
Photo: John W. Barry, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art archives
|The house as it looks today|
If this has piqued your interest in home-grown American art, click here!