Celebrating Ag Women: Iowa - Grant Wood's American Gothic House

Celebrating Ag Women: Iowa - Grant Wood's American Gothic House

Craig BrownMar 27, '20

Now that our Iowa AG BABE shirt is available and selling well 🙌

We want to celebrate a few of the great women of Iowa agriculture...

But any conversation about Iowa Ag Babes has to begin with Grant Wood's world-famous depiction of the American Gothic house and the farmer and his daughter standing in front of it.

Yes, that's right..

Iowa-born artist Grant Wood spotted the house in Eldon, Iowa in the summer of 1930 and considered it a very "painterly" example of an Iowa farmhouse. Wood decided to paint the house along with "the kind of people I fancied should live in that house".

He enlisted his sister Nan Wood Graham (the real Ag Babe in this story) from nearby Anamosa, Iowa and his family dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to serve as his models. Wood painted each of his models individually...

They never actually stood side-by-side in front of the house in Eldon. Sorry if that breaks your heart. 💔

While the painting received mixed reviews when first exhibited, it has come to be regarded as one of the masterpieces of American art. Iowans were outraged at first (remember, this is the state that also hated The Music Man when it was first produced), but as the nation sank into the Great Depression, people started to see Wood’s painting in a different light.

American Gothic was no longer understood as satirical, but as a celebratory expression of populist nationalism. Critics extolled the farmer and his wife (sic) as steadfast embodiments of American virtue and the pioneer spirit.

The painting was quickly purchased by The Art Institute of Chicago and is still a part of their permanent exhibit, having been viewed by tens of millions of visitors in the 90 years since.

Wood once wrote that “all the good ideas I’ve ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.” We're pretty sure there's a lot of Iowa Ag Babes that understand that sentiment. Grant Wood died in 1942 while his sister Nan, his model for one of the most famous American paintings, died in 1990 in Menlo Park, CA.

Get your IOWA Ag Babe Tee Here 👇