Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

American Gothic

(American Gothic, 1930, by Grant Wood,
1891-1942, American painter)

Some facts about this painting that people might not know: this is a portrait meant to be of a father and his grown-up daughter, not his wife, posed by the artist’s sister and his dentist; and the word “Gothic” in the title refers to the shape of the window behind them at the top floor of this Gothic Revival cottage.

Wood did not intend this painting as a satire. “I endeavored to paint these people as they existed for me in the life I knew,” he wrote in 1941.


Just outside the frame
there has to be a dog
chickens, cows and hay

and a smokehouse
where a ham in hickory
is also being preserved

Here for all time
the borders of the Gothic window
anticipate the ribs

of the house
the tines of the pitchfork
repeat the triumph

of his overalls
and front and center
the long faces, the sober lips

above the upright spines
of this couple
arrested in the name of art

These two
by now
the sun this high

ought to be
in mortal time
about their businesses

Instead they linger here
within the patient fabric
of the lives they wove

he asking the artist silently
how much longer
and worrying about the crops

she no less concerned about the crops
but more to the point just now
whether she remembered

to turn off the stove.

~ John Stone (1936-2008), American poet and physician

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