American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2005 - Art - 215 pages
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Ever since it met the public eye in 1930, the painting American Gothic has elicited admiration, disgust, reverence, and ridicule - and has been reproduced hundreds of thousands of times, in every medium.
Steven Biel explores the strangely enduring life of America's most popular painting. American Gothic has been interpreted as both a critique and a celebration of rural life, and it seems to speak so deeply to our ideas and feelings about American-ness that it is our most parodied work of art. Painted by a self-proclaimed "bohemian" who studied in Paris, the image was first seen as a critique of Midwestern Puritanism and what H.L. Mencken called "the booboisie." During the Depression, it came to represent endurance in hard times through the quintessential American values of thrift, work, and faith. Later, in television, advertising, politics, and popular culture, American Gothic evolved into parody - all the while remaining a lodestar by which one might measure closeness or distance from the American heartland.
 

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Contents

THE ORIGINAL
17
ICONOCLASM
45
ICON
83
PARODY
120
NOTES
173
INDEX
201
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Steven Biel is the executive director of the Mahindra Humanities Center and a senior lecturer on history and literature at Harvard University.

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