Here's a thoughtful piece by Lindsey Herkommer on two Midwestern American Gothics: the first, the iconic painting by Grant Wood, the second, an important photo by Gordon Parks.
American Gothic by Grant Wood - image borrowed from KMUW radio
There's something really compelling about Wood's image of this farmer and his daughter. I love many paintings from the 1930s - Hopper's slanting sunlight on hillsides, WPA murals of noble factory workers, Texas dust-bowl paintings of bony cattle, wire fences, cotton boles... but this double portrait has presence that seems out of its period.
It feels a little like a Renaissance portrait, reminding me of Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Marriage. I think it's the formal, self-conscious poses of the subjects: the men's severity and vertical gestures and the way the women incline their heads, deferential to the men, but staring off into a private distance.
The Arnolfini Marriage by Jan van Eyck
Hard to imagine two painted couples with more different lives or times.