|Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930,|
Art Institute of Chicago.
|Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.|
|The clerestory windows of Catedral del Buen Pastor de San Sebastián.|
|You may click on any of the images for closer examination.|
|Since the earliest days of Christian iconography, enlarged |
eyes have symbolized wisdom because the wise are able
to see deeper and further than the foolish. Bust sculpture of
Constantine the Great in marble at the Capitoline Museum.
First, the pitchfork the man holds: of all the instruments and tools that Wood could have chosen, he chose a pitchfork (and he didn't have to chose a tool at all, Wood could have had the man just standing there, or with his arm around his wife). But the pitchfork is important because it suggests that he has "pitched" something: God.
|Farmers using pitchforks to move hay.|
The home replaces church, work replaces God.The farm has become the place of worship and work has become the new religion.
None of this seems revolutionary today, but remember, this was done in 1930.
If you look above the woman's right shoulder (click on the image and a larger image will open in a new window), a thin strand of her hair hangs out of her tightly wound bun. If she represents America, then America is "coming undone." A woman's apron is her work clothes the way overalls are a man's work clothes. Her brown apron suggests her humility in work but that it's adorned with the pattern and the fringe implies vanity and taking "pride in her humility"; further, the apron covers her Pilgrim style dress, and this is very literal: if the apron represents work and the dress symbolizes the religious freedom the Pilgrims were seeking, then work is covering up religion. If America, in the Roaring 20's, made an idol out of work, then work will be taken away: in 1929, unemployment in America was only around 3%; by 1933, it had jumped to 25%.
The sour, or bitter, or disappointed or tragic expression on her face--it's difficult to decide what it is--is partially hidden because--unlike the solid gaze of her husband who "views the viewer as the viewer is viewing him," her face is turned, looking off into the distance, perhaps searching for the sign of hope that things are about to improve. But she's not making any move towards the church in the background.
|Icon of Saint Mary of Egypt doing the "holy works" of God.|