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In August of 1930, Iowa artist Grant Wood went for a drive in the country. Near the village of Eldon, he was struck by a small frame cottage with an oversized Gothic window in the gable end facing the road. (There was also an identical window in the back gable that he probably didn’t see.) Wood made a quick sketch on the back of an envelope and later followed up with an oil painting of the kind of people he imagined might live in such a house.
The rest, as they say, is history. Wood’s American Gothic—like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch’s The Scream—is instantly familiar to almost everyone, both in the original and in parody versions beyond counting.