Monday, July 11, 2005

American Gothic Returns to the Corn Fields

The little house behind the big picture. Posted by Picasa

Big news from the wilds of Iowa. The famous American Gothic painting by Grant Wood will travel to Cedar Rapids from the Art Institute of Chicago this fall, as reported in the Chicago Tribune last weekend.

Their faces won't betray it, but the farm couple in "American Gothic" are getting a rare chance to visit their hometown this fall, a leave granted in light of their 75 years together.

Almost since its completion, the painting has been owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, which paid artist Grant Wood $300 for it in late 1930, after it won third place in a juried show there. The work was an immediate sensation and remains a signature holding of the museum. And its dour duo, the man with his hay fork, the woman in her prim apron, are among pop culture's more recognized and mercilessly parodied images.

The institute rarely lends the piece, because it is fragile and its absence would disappoint so many visitors.

"It's one of our `destination' pictures," said Judith Barter, curator of American art.

But in early September, its destination will be Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Wood's boyhood home will get to see "American Gothic" from Sept. 10 to Dec. 4, when the painting will star in a major exhibition of his works in the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

You'll find the American Gothic House down near the Missouri border in Eldon, Iowa - and I've been there (on a summer trip in which copious amounts of fireworks were purchased in the Show Me The Money state). A picture and brief description can be found here. It's surprisingly off the beaten path, with about a half dozen signs in Eldon sending you on detour-laden trip to a dusty road, and a sharp corner with a rusting metal barn, across from which is the house - much smaller than the painting makes it look - and a historical marker. So, the TAA gets double braggings rights, having seen the painting in person, and the house.

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