Gothic Painting Essay

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Life covered Wood's specific paintings, with a two page spread in 1940 for Parson Weems' Fable, and a retrospective following his death in 1942.

His paintings enjoyed a grass-roots popularity throughout his life that transcended place; mid-Westerners seemed to regard him as their own, while the Boston-New York-Chicago crowd appeared to find his paintings a reassuring balm after endless Depression-era bad news from the heartland.

It was certainly true that Wood's popularity rapidly fell off with the changed economy following World War II.

Ruth Pickering wrote a far less bloodthirsty essay on Wood in the September 1935 issue of North American Review.

Rather, she complains mildly that "no trace of hysteria, no sense of excitement lodges in Wood's Quaker temperament.

No very unruly emotion, either of love or of hate, if it ever swayed him, remains unmastered." It is his ability to organize his composition so well, she suggests, that applies the "dead hand.

Notices of the picture's popularity were carried in papers as far away as New York and Boston, and critics struggled with the meaning of the serious couple and the ambiguous title: "In the Chicago press, Charles Bulliet delighted in American Gothic as quaint, humorous, and AMERICAN,' while a critic in Boston saw the couple as grim religious fanatics. American Gothic would always remain his most famous and most enduring work, but others became well-known during the thirties; Stone City, Iowa, Parson Weem's Fable, and Midnight Ride of Paul Revere all achieved fame on their own, and then were purchased by such Hollywood names as Katherine Hepburn and Edward G. Grant Wood's rise to fame was a popular movement, propelled more by coverage in Time, Life and the New York Times than in academic journals of the day.

He knew nothing of the artist, he admitted, but guessed Wood must have suffered tortures from these people who could not understand the joy of art within him and tried to crush his soul with their sheet iron brand of salvation'" ( qtd. The New York Times and Time primarily were interested in Wood as a mural painter and as a part of the Regionalist triumvirate--the other two being John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton (Jewell).

To her, he was the "painter in overalls" who "hoisted his overalls on a stick to scare away the city connoisseur and the academician" (271).

She admired his choice of subject matter, his belief in regionalism, and his American eschewing of the abstract in favor of the illustrational.


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