American Gothic: The Life of Grant Wood by Susan Wood (review)
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Reviewed by
Wood, Susan American Gothic: The Life of Grant Wood; illus. by Ross MacDonald. Abrams, 2017 40p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4197-2533-3 $18.95
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-68335-097-9 $15.54
R Gr. 3-5

Here middle-grade readers meet a twentieth-century Iowan, Grant Wood, who knows he wants to paint, knows what he wants to paint (other Iowans), knows where to learn to paint (Paris, obviously), but just can’t reconcile the painterly styles then in vogue—Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract Art—with his subject matter. Hazy views of French cathedrals, faces parsed into multiple planes, colored geometric forms had little to do with the bib overalls, rolling farmland, and framed houses that consumed his interest, and even less to do with the economic challenges of the Great Depression holding sway over America’s economy. A gothic arched window in an Iowa farmhouse, however, caught Wood’s attention, connecting his European experience with American reality, and inspired what would become not only his signature painting but also a seminal work of the American Regionalist school, American Gothic. Susan Wood addresses head-on some of the debates and myths surrounding the cryptic figures of the iconic pitchfork and its dour owners, and she selects several other paintings for viewing and discussion which explore Wood’s participation in the homegrown art movement he helped to found. MacDonald is an ideal choice for illustrator, with his signature retro style and saturated colors that recall early Disney animation and Little Golden Books, which intersected the Regionalist era. An author’s note, timeline, list of sources, reproductions of several Wood’s paintings, and a large photograph of Wood posing in his studio are also included. [End Page 46]

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