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This picture tickles me.

So Grant Wood saw this neat old Gothic farmhouse in Cowtitty, Iowa and thought it looked cool. He imagined what sort of people would live there and made up this little story in his head about a bank manager or store owner and his grownup spinster daughter.

The woman is the artist’s sister. The man is the artist’s dentist. I’m not sure they ever stood next to each other before this picture was taken, but they certain never stood next to each other in front of this house. All three — woman, man and house — were painted separately.

And then, bullshit happened. It’s been described as a satire on wicked nasty puritanical rural Midwesterners. Or, alternatively, a noble portrayal of the indomitable American spirit (it was the Great Depression after all). Or…whatever. Pick your flavor. Whatever it is, it’s nothing to do with Grant Wood.

Take any great painting. I will guarantee you, the artist’s main thought process was, “whoa, that looks cool!”


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 20, 2012, 11:47 pm

The house is a pubic attraction now. They’ll help you dress up for a parody photo, if you like.

Comment from Dan.
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:12 am

Public? Or is your original word why they look so crabby?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:17 am

Aiiiii! I made the bad typo!

Comment from MCPO Airdale
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:34 am

It’s the art world’s equivalent of “Watch this sh*t!”

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:47 am

Or, “hold mah beer!”

Wyeth thought Christina’s World was a terrible flop. He painted it, there’s was an embarrassed silence from his family. He tucked it behind a sofa for a while.

I’m not a Wyeth fan, but people have overlaid all kinds of Meaning on that picture.

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:55 am

I will get on my soapbox now.

Sister Stoaty and all y’all minions. Politics aside, it is a great painting. Like the Mona Lisa and other portraiture defined masterworks , it speaks to so many different levels of what mankind is all about. It speaks to a specific time in American history, yet goes way beyond that clearly technical, masterful rendering. Truly great art “trancends” age or whatever spin the current cultural blathering art critic calls it.

I’ll have to tell you all the tale of one Denver native who went on to become a master at bringing art as a joy to be experienced and enjoyed by all folks. Gene Amole created a venue to make accessible. Like Leonard Bernstein….and Grant Wood and Norman Rockwell, Carl Sandburg and Thomas Hornsby Ferril, he took the ordinary about life and made it available, yet transcendental…extraordinary.

I won’t get into Methodist/Transcendentalist rant, I am way too much of liturgical mystic.

I will say that I am tired of the blatant and clearly political positioning of one Barry Sotero, aka: Barrack Hussein Obama, as the heir apparent to FDR and saviour of “Progressivism” in America.

That, my friends, is the other side of the coin of the “ARTS” which has been hijacked by the propaganda media machine here, in Britain, and on the Continent.

Off the soapbox now….need a huge glass of wine.

Comment from GregO
Time: February 21, 2012, 1:53 am

Both these paintings work on one’s head is some weird way that captures that “certain something” about the prairies in the mid west. My parents were conservative people from Iowa and South Dakota and my Dad’s father was a Scandinavian immigrant. I was born and raised on the West Coast – both these paintings hit me right in the midsection. I can’t put it into words, but they convey powerful images.

Comment from EZnSF
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:14 am

All I’ll say is, I just bought my first pair of overalls last month. And I love em.

Comment from Tibby
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:21 am

Enjoy your wine Sven. 🙂

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:56 am

Yeah I keep hearing about how mean and dour and unfriendly they look, but they just look like old time farm people.

Comment from Nobody
Time: February 21, 2012, 4:06 am

A recent issue of Mental Floss had a long article about this painting, actually. Seems the long article isn’t available online, but here’s some more fun facts: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/22639

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: February 21, 2012, 7:22 am

As an Olson, I have always approved of Christina’s World. It shows that you can’t stop an Olson, all you can hope to do is slow her down. YAY OLSONS!

Comment from Mr. Dave
Time: February 21, 2012, 1:29 pm

Cowtitty, Iowa will be my hometown from now on.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 21, 2012, 2:31 pm

What, no discussion of the Master, Thomas Kinkade? I know Weasel is errm, conflicted about Kinkade.

Comment from Redd
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:34 pm

Hey, laugh all you want but Kinkade is worth $70 million.

[Celebritynetworth.com is my faaaavorite site these days. However, they did downgrade old Whitney from 80 million to 20 million to a mere 5 million in a week. Her baby girl better kick her coke habit, learn a skill, and get a job.]

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:34 pm

Kincaid is OK if you have somebody follow him around and touch up his work with a little splash of light and color here and there.

As for the symbolism in painting I tend to believe that there generally wasn’t much (except for religious iconography ) until the modern art game started in the late 50’s. Failing to have the the skills of a Picasso or Dali essentially the only way for an artist to prove that he knew all the rules of classic composition (without spending years like the masters did) was to break them. This allowed him and his friends to have endless discussions over cigarettes and cheap wine. Then began the inside jokes apparent only to those who took a 3rd level course.

They began praising each other from their chairs at Liberal Arts schools
and shazaam! Painting was transformed into a talking sport, like baseball.

Reproduction of reality, particularly beautiful reality, became frowned upon because really a photograph does that so much better, and it doesn’t apparently leave much to say at a party.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 21, 2012, 7:13 pm

Kinkade is fine, he’s no great artist, but then most aren’t. He paints better than I do, and I just don’t get the hate of the guy. I think a lot of it is jealousy, really.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 21, 2012, 8:39 pm

“As for the symbolism in painting I tend to believe that there generally wasn’t much (except for religious iconography ) until the modern art game started in the late 50′s.”

Whaaaaa…? Early Renaissance painting is full of symbolism. Take a look at the iconography in Giotto, for example. Bosch, Breugel, they’re absolutely riddled with it. And Symbolism as a movement in its own right is a 19th C./early 20th C. thing e.g. Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead, which inspired the Rachmaninov piece, or Salome, which is a play by Wilde, an opera by Strauss and a painting by Klimt.

Comment from mojo
Time: February 21, 2012, 9:36 pm

The Great Circle of ART!
1) paintings that look like the subject
2) paintings that look like the artist’s impression of the subject.
3) paintings that look like somebody blew up the paint locker.
and finally, once again.
4) paintings that look like the subject.

Comment from James the lesser
Time: February 22, 2012, 1:13 am

Somebody said that modern art was born when artists quit painting women and decided they had a better idea.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 22, 2012, 5:50 am

Some Vegetable: Read The Painted Word by Tome Wolfe. It explains how 20th century “high art” devolved into pure art theory.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 22, 2012, 5:52 am

Christopher Taylor:Yeah I keep hearing about how mean and dour and unfriendly they look, but they just look like old time farm people.

That’s the point: old time American farm people are mean and unfriendly.

Comment from ermine
Time: February 22, 2012, 8:52 pm

Most modern farm people ain’t to damn happy either.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 23, 2012, 3:34 am

Funny thing. If Wood had written a novel about a bank manager or store owner and his grown up spinster daughter, using his sister and dentist as the models for the personal attributes of the characters, noone would think twice about it. Nor would anyone in the 19th century (or any earlier century) have found anything in the least odd about the idea that the elements of that painting were not “authentic.” I mean. . .that’s how painting was done, yes? I wonder what it was, in the 20th century (possibly, only in the 20th century in the US) that engendered this thirst for authenticity in visual art?

Comment from Alice
Time: February 23, 2012, 11:39 pm

Ooh, I am so stealing that, Rich.

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