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Grant Wood's Women From New Book 'A Life' (PHOTOS)

Posted: 10/04/10 09:30 AM ET

Although everyone recognizes American Gothic, the endlessly parodied image of a pitchfork-wielding farm couple, few know the gothic story of its creator, Grant Wood. In writing Wood's biography, I was intrigued by how this closeted gay man - who survived by adopting a folksy, overall-clad persona - drew inspiration from the women around him. Above all, these included his widowed mother and married sister, both of whom slept alongside Wood for much of his adult life. More Norman Bates than Norman Rockwell, it seems, he painted some of the most arresting female portraits in American art. Here are nine (and a half) of my favorites:

Author of "Grant Wood: A Life" (Knopf: 2010), Tripp Evans teaches art history at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. To read an excerpt from the book, visit www.grantwoodalife.com.

American Gothic (1930)
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When American Gothic was first shown at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930, visitors assumed it portrayed a married couple. Wood insisted the pair was a father and daughter, yet he was sometimes confused about their relationship himself – and with good reason. The female model for this work, Wood’s beloved “maiden” sister Nan (who had, in fact, been married six years when she posed), had replaced the artist’s mother Hattie. Wearing her mother’s apron and cameo, and accompanied by Wood’s dentist (a stand-in for the painter’s deceased father), Nan plays the roles of mother, sister and daughter all at once.

"American Gothic" (1930), Art Institute of Chicago

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