The works American Gothic, 1930, by Grant Wood, and Number 1 (Lavender Mist), 1950, by Jackson Pollock were painted only twenty years apart, yet they seem to be artworks created in different eras on different planets. Their initial difference is obvious, but because of their…
Pollock’s dentist and his daughter posed for the literal portrait. It won a competition, and many critics and writers thought it was satirical, probably because of the expressions on the subjects’ faces; but this is a plain picture of honest Quaker or Shaker simplicity, according to its creator. Its message is simple, addressed to Americans by an American: hard work is its own reward, it offers clean living and an uncomplicated life. It is highly detailed and meticulous, to reflect the message.
Its plainness is not without ambiguity, which appeals to art students and the general public, and aroused discussion even 80 years after Wood painted it. It has become an iconic effigy, copied and satirized hundred of times. (Art Institute of Chicago 2004) People put their own meaning into the holes that ambiguity leaves, so American Gothic is interpreted to convey a number of messages at different times. It is strictly representational, and its form and content place it immediately within a particular region in the US, but its appeal can be described as abstract in the sense that it stimulates as much discussion as if people were trying to discover what it really depicts. The question is: what does this picture really show the viewer? The answer depends on individual viewers and how much each knows of its history, and the life of the artist Wood. He painted a picture that on first sight looks bland and clean, with a strong Mid-West focus. His message, whether intended or sub-conscious, is only visible if one knows enough background.
Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), is a painting by Jackson Pollock that he created in 1950. ‘It is impossible to make a forgery of Jackson Pollocks work,’ Time magazine critic Robert Hughes, an Australian, claimed in 1982. (National Gallery of Art 2009) And perhaps he was right. But it is also almost impossible to replicate a child’s ...
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