Are there elements that lead your eye through the composition of Grant Wood's American Gothic?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are, indeed, certain elements of Grant Woods's iconic painting that direct the viewer. 

  • First of all, the many vertical and horizontal lines generate eye movement from pitchfork to the coat of the man on up to the faces of both figures to the Gothic window between them; then, as the roof angles, the viewer's eye is led toward the left and right with the roofs of the house and barn.
  • The repetition of shape with the pitchfork and the Gothic window induces the viewer to see the figures in the front of the painting and then notice the window and the house in the background.
  • Likewise, the repetition of design in the woman's apron that is also in the curtains of the Gothic window generates movement from foreground to background.
  • The use of the same color for the faces of the woman and man that the house is painted moves the viewer's eye back and forth among them.
  • Everything in the painting seems homemade; this similarity leads the eye throughout.
  • The figures are pieced with the house; there is no depth between them, so the eye places them together.