Grant Wood
American, 1891-1942

American Gothic, 1930

Oil on Beaver Board
78 x 65.3 cm (30 3/4 x 25 3/4 in.)
Signed and dated lower right on overalls: GRANT / WOOD / 1930
Friends of American Art Collection, 1930.934

American Gothic

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This familiar image was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute of Chicago, winning a three-hundred-dollar prize and instant fame for Grant Wood. The impetus for the painting came while Wood was visiting the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa. There he spotted a little wood farmhouse, with a single oversized window, made in a style called Carpenter Gothic. “I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house,” he said. He used his sister and his dentist as models for a farmer and his daughter, dressing them as if they were “tintypes from my old family album.” The highly detailed, polished style and the rigid frontality of the two figures were inspired by Flemish Renaissance art, which Wood studied during his travels to Europe between 1920 and 1926. After returning to settle in Iowa, he became increasingly appreciative of midwestern traditions and culture, which he celebrated in works such as this. American Gothic, often understood as a satirical comment on the midwestern character, quickly became one of America’s most famous paintings and is now firmly entrenched in the nation’s popular culture. Yet Wood intended it to be a positive statement about rural American values, an image of reassurance at a time of great dislocation and disillusionment. The man and woman, in their solid and well-crafted world, with all their strengths and weaknesses, represent survivors.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 56.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, The Forty-third Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, October 30-December 14, 1930, cat. 207, ill.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, February 1931.

Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Twenty-Fifth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists, April 26-June 22, 1931, cat. 139, ill. p. 26.

San Diego Fine Art Gallery, Show of Contemporary Eastern Painting [probably], c. June 1932, no cat.; traveled to Santa Barbara, Calif., Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, c. August 1932.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Paintings and Prints by Chicago Artists, February 28-March 30, 1933, cat. 37, ill. frontispiece.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1-November 1, 1933, cat. 666, pl. 92.

Washington, DC., Phillips Collection, November 1933-February 1934.

Philadelphia, Pa., Pennsylvania Mus of Art, March 31-April 10, 1934.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1-November 1, 1934, cat. 716.

Chicago, Lakeside Press Galleries, Loan Exhibition of Drawings and Paintings by Grant Wood, February-March 1935, cat. 33, ill. p. 23.

New York, Ferargil Galleries, An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Grant Wood, March-April 1935, cat. 15.

Kansas City, Mo., William R. Nelson Gallery, October 2-November 8, 1935.

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, The Centennial Exposition, June 6-November 29, 1936, cat. 15, ill. p. 64.

Chicago, Ill., Chicago Woman's Club, Jan 20, 1937.

Bloomington, Ill., Central Illinois Art Exposition, March 19-April 8, 1939, cat. 106, ill. p. 29.

Iowa City, Fine Arts Festival, Iowa Union Lounge, University of Iowa, Exhibition of Paintings by Grant Wood and Marvin D. Cone, July 16-23, 1939, cat. 23.

Art Institute of Chicago, Half a Century of American Art, November 16, 1939-January 7, 1940, cat. 178, pl. 46.

Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cranbrook Academy of Art, May 17-June 6, 1940.

Northampton, Mass., Smith College Museum of Art, American Art: Aspects of American Painting, 1900-1940, June 12-22, 1940, cat. 33.

Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, A Decade of American Painting 1930-1940, February 18-March 22, 1942, ill. p. 23.

Cedar Rapids Art Association, Grant Wood Memorial Exhibition, September 1-October 1, 1942, no cat. See Cedar Rapids Gazette, 9/6/1942.

Art Institute of Chicago, Memorial Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Grant Wood, included in the Fifty-third Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, October 29-December 12, 1942, cat. 2, color ill. frontispiece.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, 20th Century Portraits, December 8, 1942-January 24, 1943, p. 145, ill. p. 99.

Baltimore, Md., February 12-March 7, 1943.

Worcester Art Museum, March 17-April 19, 1943.

Boston, The Institute of Modern Art, Ten Americans, October 20-November 21, 1943, cat. 29, ill.

Saginaw, Mich., Saginaw Museum of Art, An Exhibition of American Painting from Colonial Times until Today, January 10-February 15, 1948, cat. 71, pl. 13.

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Famous American Paintings, October 9-31, 1948, n.pag., ill.

Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Milestones of American Painting in Our Century, c. January 2-c. March 3, 1949, cat. 21.

Montreal, Canada, March 18-April 20, 1949.

Canadian National Exhibition Art Exhibit, August 26-September 10, 1949.

Beloit, Wisc., Beloit College, October 11-November 11, 1949.

Dayton, Ohio, Dayton Art Institute, The Artist and His Family, March 3-April 1950, cat. 40.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Coe College, Centennial Exhibition, May 15-June 9, 1952, cat. 24.

New York, Wildenstein, Landmarks in American Art, 1670-1950, Feb 26-Mar 28, 1953, cat. 50, ill.

Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, 125 Years of American Art, September 15-October 11, 1953, cat. 59, ill. p. 18.

Dubuque, Iowa, Dubuque Art Association, Thirty Years of Grant Wood, Feb 15-Feb 23, 1955, cat. 9.

Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, Communicating Art from Midwest Collections: American and European Paintings and Sculpture, 1835-1955, October 13-November 6, 1955, cat. 20, ill.

Davenport, Iowa, Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, Grant Wood and the American Scene, February 3-24, 1957, cat. 5, ill. p. 5.

Lake Forest, Ill., Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest College, A Century Of American Painting: Masterpieces Loaned by The Art Institute of Chicago, June 10-16, 1957, cat. 24.

Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Face of America: The History of Portraiture in the United States, November 13, 1957-January 26, 1958, cat. 92, fig. 41.

Washington, DC, Corcoran Gallery of Art, The American Muse: Parallel Trends in Literature and Art, April 4-May 17, 1959, cat. 130.

Art Institute of Chicago, Art in Illinois, In Honor of the Illinois Sesquicentennial, June 15-September 8, 1968, p. 10.

Art Institute of Chicago, 100 Artists, 100 Years: Alumni of the SAIC, Centennial Exhibition, November 23, 1979-January 20, 1980, cat. 112, ill. p. 35.

New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Grant Wood: The Regionalist Vision, June 16-September 4, 1983, cat. 25, pl. 32, traveled to Minneapolis Institute of Arts, September 25, 1983-January 1, 1984, Art Institute of Chicago, January 21-April 15, 1984; San Francisco, M. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, May 12-August 12, 1984.

Omaha, Neb., Joslyn Art Museum, Grant Wood: An American Master Revealed, December 10, 1995-February 25, 1996, cat. 14, pl. 16, traveled to Davenport, Iowa, Davenport Museum of Art, March 23-September 8, 1996; Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, October 6-December 31, 1996.

New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The American Century: Art and Culture, 1900-1950, April 23-August 22, 1999, cat. 435, color ill. p. 225.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Grant Wood at 5 Turner Alley, September 10-December 4, 2005.

Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Grant Wood's Studio: Birthplace of "American Gothic," March 10-June 11, 2006.

Des Moines Art Center, After Many Springs: Art in the Midwest in the 1930s, January 30-March 30, 2009.

Publication History

Anita Brenner, "Is There An American Art?," The New York Times Magazine (November 23, 1941), ill. p. 13.

Frederick S. Wight, Milestones of American Painting in Our Century, introduction by Lloyd Goodrich (Boston: The Institute of Contemporary Art with Chanticleer Press, New York, 1949), pp. 30, 74, ill. pl. 21, p. 75.

Henri Dorra, The American Muse (Viking Press, 1961), p. 124, ill. p. 156.

Matthew Baigell, The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930's (Praeger Publishers, 1974), pp. 18, 109, 110, 111, ill. 1, p. 12.

Wanda Corn, "The painting that became a symbol of a nation's spirit," Smithsonian 11, 8 (November 1980), pp. 84-96, ill. p. 85.

Wanda M. Corn, Grant Wood: The Regionalist Vision, exh. cat. (Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Yale University Press, 1982), pp. 3, 25-26, 33, 35, 60, 128-142, pl. 32.

Wanda M. Corn, "The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood's American Gothic," The Art Institute of Chicago Centennial Lectures, Museum Studies 10 (Art Institute of Chicago/Contemporary Books, Inc., 1983), pp. 253-275, fig. 1.

Davenport Museum of Art, Iowa, Grant Wood: An American Master Revealed (Davenport Museum of Art/Pomegranate Books, 1995), pp. 24, 69-73, 96-98, cat. 16, pl. 16.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 67, ill.

James M. Dennis, Renegade Regionalists: The Modern Independence of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), pp. 14, 19-20, 100-02, fig. 7.

Lea Rosson DeLong, Grant Wood's Main Street: Art, Literature and the American Midwest, exh. cat. (Ames, Iowa: Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, 2004), pp. 17-18, 24, 27-29, 39, 97, 104, 106, 159, 203, 205, 207, fig. 12.

Thomas Hoving, American Gothic: The Biography of Grant Wood's American Masterpiece (Chamberlain Bros., 2005).

Stephen Biel, American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting (W.W. Norton & Co., 2005).

Sue Taylor, "Grant Wood's Family Album," American Art 19, 2 (Summer 2005): 48-67.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 79.

Laura Hoptman, "Wyeth: Christina's World," One on One (The Museum of Modern Art, 2012), p. 4 (ill.).

Ownership History

The artist; sold to the Art Institute, November 1930.