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“I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.” —Grant Wood

Goth Country billboard

Gothic revival
A paint job

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow—Grant Wood


Goth Country interior

Weathered boards
Among the hay fields
Grit winds flay

Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, you all had great moments, but you never tasted the supreme triumph; you were never a farm boy riding in from the fields on a bulging rack of new-mown hay—Grant Wood


Goth Country in frame

Drab backdrop
Dingy field-mouse gray
But say hay

You can do anything with beer that you can do with wine—Grant Wood


Goth Country exterior

Goth Country
Spruced up the backdrop
Saved the day

Technique does not constitute art. Nor is it a vague, fuzzy romantic quality known as ‘beauty,’ remote from the realities of everyday life. It is the depth and intensity of an artist’s experience that are the first importance in art—Grant Wood


“Goth Country” is dedicated to the Iowa State Historical Society, restorer of the backdrop for Grant Wood’s paint job: the house has pride of place at 300 American Gothic St., Eldon, Iowa, a hay wagon ride from the painter’s grass roots.

Grant Wood pix

His model “Goths,” the artist’s sister and dentist, and Grant Wood



10 Comments Post a comment
  1. I assume the sister and dentist lived long enough to see themselves become culturally significant.

    December 6, 2021
    • Thanks for that, George, I’m still laughing. I suppose they knew that the picture they posed for won a medal and a $300 prize in the 1930 annual art exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. They may never have seen the backdrop though. Wood sketched it in situ but did the painting at his Cedar Rapids studio. No way his sister and his dentist are gonna schlep 80 miles to Eldon, right? But thanks to the Iowa Historical Society, 15,000 visitors make the pilgrimage annually.

      December 7, 2021
      • I did a little reading and I learned that Wood’s sister, Nan, lived until 1990! Conceivably, as late as 1989 someone could have said, “And this is my friend, Nan. She was in the painting, American Gothic.” It seems to me her image is so iconic, so entrenched in art history and pop culture, that it would be like suddenly spotting the Mona Lisa at a grocery mart.

        December 9, 2021
      • Some art historians and scholars suggest that Mona Lisa is Leonardo’s self portrait.
        In any case, ‘she’ is either the Nan Wood Graham of Italy, or Leonardo is Italy’s Grant Wood in drag.

        December 9, 2021
      • Agreed.

        December 9, 2021
      • If Elvis spotted Nan at Ralph’s in ’89, would he have offered her a ride home in Ma’s pink Caddy? That’s a puzzler for Trefology.

        December 9, 2021
      • Not if Frida Kahlo has any say in it.

        December 9, 2021
      • Agreed.

        December 9, 2021
  2. This is so interesting. How many times have I seen this painting (or variations on its theme) and not known this back story? I feel enlightened!

    December 8, 2021
    • If you feel enlightened, LuAnne, imagine how the tourists feel when they see the backdrop in the Eldon, Iowa, sunshine. 🙂

      December 8, 2021

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