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Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Models for Grant Wood's icon painting turned out to be his sister and family dentist

Uncanny resemblance (windows)

PARODY ON PARODY--In what has become one of the America’s most parodied paintings, Grant Wood’s 1930 classic, began as a parody of Iowa architecture.  Wood’s biographers point out the American born, European trained artist was in Eldon, Iowa (not far from his studio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when he spotted a small white house that he considered a “structural absurdity.”

Reason was he thought the home owned by the Dibble family borrowed pretentiousness to put a Gothic-style window on such a plain frame and very Midwestern home.  Actually, the home had its own style, which was Carpenter Gothic.  This rural Gothic style was popular architecture for small homes and churches throughout the Northeast and Midwest during the mid to late 19th century.

Example of Late 19th century Carpenter Gothic design
Nonetheless, the home captured Wood’s attention.  He was given permission by the owners to paint it.   Wood later said he wanted to paint the home with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.”

Was Mr. Wood a snob?
You betcha.

Wood entered the painting into a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago, which won a bronze prize and $300, a tidy sum given depression era economics.
The Art Institute purchased the painting and it hangs there today.

The news of his success reached the Cedar Rapids Gazette and after reading about it, Iowans became disturbed that they were being portrayed as “pinched, grim-faced, puritanical Bible-thumpers.”   But, noted art critics of the day Gertrude Stein and Christopher Morley championed the work as a satire of rural small-town life. 

The models later posed in real life next to the painting.  They the painter’s sister Nan Wood and Dr. Byron McKeeby, the family dentist from Cedar Rapids.

The artist died in 1942 never to return to Eldon, Iowa.

Oak Hill Cottage, Mansfield Ohio.

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