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The models who were used in “American Gothic” standing by the painting

Jan 27, 2011 By Abraham

Grant Wood saw a house in Iowa that he decided to paint along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.” He chose his sister and his dentist.

Here’s the house…

Read more about “American Gothic.”


      1. Astro says:

        Well they were but it just took a lot of time to take a picture–to get the light–that holding a smile just wouldnt look ok

        1. Michael says:

          The painting was done in 1930, therefore this photo was made some time after that. The requirement for long exposures was a problem for very early photography, and had ceased to be a problem *decades* before this picture was taken.

          It’s pretty obvious they are just replicating their pose in the painting.

          1. Daisy says:

            BRILLIANT, Michael; – I was trying to imagine the process of including the painting in a photo, that had yet to be painted…

        2. Jinco says:

          DERP! WTF!?!? How old do you think this picture is? This picture was taken about 1930, not 1870. Of course, they were able to smile! They probably were avoiding doing so to emulate their expressions in the painting so the viewer could more easily make the distinction that the people posing for the photograph were indeed the same people who had posed for the painting.

  1. Zeb says:

    True story:

    My wife and I were driving through Eldon, Iowa, and we decided to stop and take a look at the American Gothic house. There is a museum and a large parking lot next to the house, and a paved walkway up to the front porch, so we assumed that the house was part of the museum.

    It turns out that the house is actually a private residence, and that the lady who owns the house sells pies out of her living room, presumably to guilt trip people who walk into her house uninvited into paying her money.

    It didn’t work on us, though.

    1. Erich says:

      The Register wrote a story on this a few months ago.

      She is a famous pie maker, presumably you don’t get out much.

      1. Patrick says:

        We were assigned to write an argumentative essay, a supporting case for a piece of art that we don’t like. To research it, analyze it and defend it. I chose this piece. I find nothing appealing about it at all other than that the artist is pretty much dead on with his depictions. One thing I noticed that a lot of you commented on was the fact that both subjects have straight faces. I do not believe that this had anything to do with exposure, etc. I was actually taught by an art history professor that both Wood’s sister and dentist hated the painting. Different organizations frequently try to get them to pose with the picture and they don’t like doing that either. Just thought I’d throw that into the convo.

        1. Tim says:

          “Different organizations frequently try to get them to pose with the picture and they don’t like doing that either.”

          Seeing as the photo was taken over 70 years ago, the chances of them agreeing to pose with the painting are fairly slim. These organisations could exhume them I suppose, but it’d be in pretty poor taste.

      2. Euan says:

        Erich, “presumably you don’t get out much” – less of this rudeness please, we’re not here to judge or offend

    2. Steve E. says:

      The sidewalk has been there since long before the museum and current tenant have been there. A road used to go in front of the house which is why the sidewalk is there. The house is owned by the State Historical Society and the tenant has made the pie her own business. The museum and the State Historical Society do not have any affiliation with her business, so the sidewalk is not a means to guilt trip visitors. I just thought people should know that so they don’t think the museum is trying to swindle money from them.

    1. cbutler says:

      Dentists are said to have the highest suicide rate because their jobs are so monotonous. I think his face at his age is somewhat appropriate for the circumstances. Sad, but true.

      1. Cheryl says:

        I think the majority of people disliking ‘going to the the dentist’ might also have something to do with the high suicide rate amongst dentists.

  2. Shelly Duffer says:

    Thanks for the memory! My Dad was a Pastor of the tiny church right around the corner from the gothic house–Eldon Baptist Church. Eldon was, well, um, unique. But then, all of Iowa is “unique”.

    1. Erin says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by “unique”…maybe in that way that some people say “special”? :) Anyway, I am also from Iowa and we live here still today. I haven’t spent my whole life here, but I will say that Eldon stands out among it’s peers! For example, no one from our community would be pleased to have Eldon used as an example of “all of Iowa”! Maybe you need to visit more of Iowa!
      Anyway, I was pleased find out that it is in nice condition, it didn’t look like it would still be around in 10 years the last time I drove through in 2001.

  3. A different Erin says:

    A creative, graphically-inclined friend in Cedar Rapids has a connection to American Gothic, so he did his own recreation of it. You can read about it here: http://www.jwmorton.com/blog/grant_wood_parody_102109.html

    I wish they had a picture on their website of all the parodies they had their staff do. I saw it in person and it was pretty funny (I think Darth Vader and Princess Leia was my favorite parody).

  4. Aguy says:

    He looks exactly like the picture, but the sister… she seems to look a bit prettier than her picture would imply.

  5. imapugluvr says:

    Forever immortalized in Grant Wood’s painting, Edith and Wally pose proudly at the debute…the after party is where they really go nuts!

  6. Roger Fligg says:

    My grandmother, Selma Jones Burkholder Johnston, was at her parents, Gideon & Mary Jones, home (the Gothic House) when Grant Wood stopped to ask if he could come back tomorrow and set up an easel to sketch the house. After he mentioned the unusual window, Mary and Selma decided to take the curtains down and wash them clean for the next day. Imagine their surprise when Grant didn’t include the curtains in his drawing that he later painted with his sister and dentist posing so gauntly!

  7. OcalaKid says:

    Man, he didn’t do his sister any favors in the painting. She is much more attractive in real life! lol Of course, he painted the people he ‘fancied’ to live there, so he homelied her up I guess.

  8. David L. Bonenberger says:

    The dentist used to race through the streets of Cedar Rapids IA in his little red sports-car and scare the whatever out of the locals. Don’t let the dour face fool you. Grant Wood made up to his sister, Nan, by doing a special portrait of her as she was so displeased by the way he portraid her in ‘American Gothic’

  9. Darrell says:

    Maybe grant was looking for an extremely thin look to show how hard farmers worked. Or he may have had a fight with his sister and decided to teach her a lesson. :-)

  10. lhalopa says:

    I would think that the money spent on the dog belonged to him,therefore his to decide what to do with it. If he wants to buy a dog,horse,car or whatever,it’s his to spend. I’m sure that some would say that things that You and I buy with our money,but that’s everyone’s decision. Mitt Romney gives a good portion of his money THAT HE EARNS to charity. some would say that he’s foolish as well. lha

  11. Mary Prange says:

    I live in Cedar Rapids—where Grant Wood lived and worked for a period. My parents actually bought the house the dentist used to own. They didn’t know it at the time. The house has since been torn down. But I always thought that was a great bit of family trivia.

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