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Dr. Edwards' Blog

A New Story About One of the Most Recognizable Paintings of Our Time - September 22, 2014


If I asked you to tell me about the guy holding the pitchfork in this iconic painting, you'd probably say he was a farmer...and the woman next to him was his wife or daughter.  I hate to break the news to you, but you'd be wrong. Believe it or not, this pitchfork-wielding man was a DENTIST!

This 19th Century painting, "American Gothic," is the work of painter Grant Wood whose numerous works reflect rural America.  Its probably one of the most famous pieces of art in the 20th Century.  Its also one of them most parodied. 

The stoic couple depicted in this painting are actually Wood's sister and their dentist.  Wood painted them from a photograph and later painted in the pitchfork and the cottage in the background.

That cottage, by the way, is a very popular tourist attraction in rural Iowa and may be for rent.  Its former tenant, Beth "The Pie Lady" Howard just moved out this month (September '14). 

Howard is a famous pie baker and author in Eldon, a town of only 900.  She sought the refuge of a smaller community in order to bake and write her books and the rent was right -- only $250.00 a month.  She actually wrote two cookbooks while living in this famous 19th Century cottage, but four years of living behind closed blinds and dodging curious tourists was enough.  She just moved to a spot that's even more rural than Eldon is.

Iowa's Historical Society owns the famous American house and had hoped the cheaper rent would help offset the hassles of dealing with all the tourists.  And it did, for awhile.  Now Historical Society members are considering their options of what to do with the famous house.

As for the iconic painting, Wood submitted it in an art competition at the Institute of Art in Chicago after he painted it in 1930.  Interestingly, jurors couldn't decide whether to accept it but eventually they did.  Woods was awarded third place, a bronze medal and $300.00.  But one juror convinced the Institute to exhibit "American Gothic."  It is still on exhibit there and is now considered "priceless."

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