Gothic. American Gothic.
American Gothic. Two very evocative words, even removed from the famous painting. If you’re like me, you’d have seen the painting and parodies before connecting them with the famous title. Together, though, they form a fascinating and iconic piece of American art.
It’s hard to say exactly what is so striking about the piece. The artist himself, Grant Wood, was inspired by a house he saw while driving around in the country. Something about the contrast of the rural farmhouse and the Gothic style window, so far removed in time and place from its origin, caught his eye and stuck in his mind.
The European Gothic style came from the late Medieval period. It didn’t last long, but it left many grand buildings, most of them cathedrals. The large windows, often of stained glass, were an iconic feature. Wood was quite familiar with this style, having spent some of his youth in Paris. Below is one of the first examples of Gothic Architecture in France.
Contrary to what may think, Wood never intended to say anything mean spirited. He simply found the style of the old house striking and wanted to capture what made it interesting to him. The people, though based on real people, are not based on the residents of the house. Wood imagined them as a father/daughter. And indeed, as the many parodies over the years have shown, there was something about it that draws people to it.
The house still stands today. Also known as “The Dibble House,” after the first owner, the curious can visit the house in Eldon, Iowa. The State Historical Society of Iowa works with caretaker/residents to maintain the house for future generations- and so you can take your own picture, of course!