This appears to be a book that was developed from a class Biel taught under classmen at Harvard Short, and heavily footnoted for source citation than added content 163 for a 172 pp book The footnoting was a little odd often just adding a footnote at the end of a paragraph and accumulating all those sources in one note Speaking of accumulation, this book feels like an accumulation of just about all the facts he could lay his hands on about Grant Wood s painting, American Gothic He was greatly aided by what appears to be a huge collection gathered over the years by Wood s sister, Nan the woman in the painting I enjoyed the parts giving us the history of Iowa s own little Bohemian community, or Nan s fight to maintain copyright control And also his explanation of the how the painting has been viewed differently as both Art and Politics through the decades I would have appreciated of Wood s own words on the painting his explanation of what he meant to the painting to say seems to have changed quite often through his short life painted in 1930, he died in 1942 And Biel s chapter on the many parodies of the painting was often of interest as well But in the end, I was a bit disappointed It did feel at times to be a collection of facts and opinions about the painting, but nothing really holding it all together Maybe this has to do w Biel s own attitude of refusing to state what he believes the painting IS about I saw the original just his past Christmas 2012 in the Art Institute of Chicago, for the first time in decades I had already bought this book at that time, but had not read it But knowing I would be reading this, I paid closer attention to the painting than I might have otherwise What struck me the most, and what you don t see in the smaller reproductions we are used to seeing, is the amount of detail Wood has put into the painting particularly the clothes.
Steven Biel considers American Gothic from the time of its inception to the present It is arguably America s best loved painting and possibly also its most reviled It has been parodied, used in advertising, appeared in Nw Yorker cartoons, made cameo appeasrances in movies, and generally taken on a life of its own, far beyond what Grant Wood might ever have imagined It is a painting of a farmer and his wife or is it It makes a statement about American values doesn t it The author is the director of the History and Literature Program at Harvard University, and brings a scholar s research to his subject, yet the book is written in an easy, fast moving style that should not scare of the most casual reader What this book can do is refresh how we look at this and other ojects of art.
Well An artist, Grant Wood, saw a little farmhouse in Eldon, Iowa It interested him so he sketched it and then got his sister Nan and a dentist to pose separately as figures he would put in the painting s foreground with the house behind it.
Grant Wood imitated the early Flemish style of painting as he liked that style I presume Flemish north France, Belgium and a portion of the Netherlands, whether Dutch masters fit this I would have to check further.
So Wood made this simple painting of which fantastic response or reaction has been made since it s inception in 1930 of which many contribute their own ideas of what it means to them that this man, woman and farmhouse in varying degrees of positive or negative response.