American Gothic was never, in actuality, an art movement but is more closely
related to the Regionalism movement that dominated most of the Midwest in the
1920's and 1930's.
Regionalism was an uncoordinated movement started by a few artists who were
inspired by the beautiful natural landscapes and by the ordinary people who
inhabited the Midwest, especially those of Iowa.
The paintings of the Regionalists can be easily identified by their use of
familiar scenes painted in a very realistic, hard-edged natural style which
depict the influence of the thirteenth-century European Gothic artists.
While set in their ways with ideas of their own, Regionalists shared a common
bond with other American Scenic painters as they were humble, anti-modernists
who delighted in depicting everyday life in a truly unique style.
The Regionalism movement, sometimes referred to as the first uniquely American
style of art, was not limited to just brush and palette. There were others who
chose the pen and ink as their medium and they set out to illustrate their
feelings of life through story writing and poetry.
The term "American Gothic" is actually a generic name which came into use
following Grant Wood's (1892-1942) painting of the same name. This
world-renowned painting of 1930 portrays a father and his young daughter rigidly
posed in the front of their European style home, which had been erected in 1880
by builders using a style known as Carpenter Gothic.
American gothic was a painting which exploded into controversy and anger by town
folks who felt that Wood was making a mockery of the local farming community.
Upon attempting to enter his painting into a juried exhibition at the Art
Institute of Chicago, Grant would once again meet with resistance.
The panels of judges were split straight down the middle. There were those who
regarded the painting as worthy of showing and then a group of judges who felt
that American Gothic should be barred. One attending critic even considered the
painting to be a caricature and insulting to the plain country people.
However, as Grant Wood had testified time after time; this painting was meant as
a satirical tribute to the Midwest. For if he sought to embarrass the town and
its people he would also be implicating himself. And considering how strongly he
felt about his roots it is truly difficult to believe that he had created this
painting with malice in his heart.
Finally, the opposing judges gave their blessings and American Gothic was
entered into the exhibit where it would receive a bronze medal and a 300.00
dollar cash prize as well as a permanent home.
Grant Wood continued to paint astounding pictures of his family members, friends
and of his favorite places. However, none of his other works would ever fall
under the guise of American Gothic. He was a Regionalist, and as such, he would
subscribe to the principles that had been established at the onset of the
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