Sunday, August 21, 2011

Introducing a New Art Critic

The National Public Radio station in Wichita, Kansas - KMUW - has a new art critic.  (Am I the only one who reads "art critic" but hears Monty Python saying, "Aaaaaaaut Critik"?)

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.


  1. Clare, I love reading your observations and comments, learning more English words and expressions as a very welcome bonus!.
    coby (again not anonymous but that seems to be the best option here.... :-) )

    PS: had a bit of trouble ordering your book but it is now on its way so more reading in the near future (as if I don't have enough to read already)
    Probably not good that a PS is longer than the main part of the text.
    Have you read HhhH by Laurent Binet? Very intriguing (correct spelling?), fascinating, he is a great commentator too. I don't know the title in English. Will try and find out.

  2. Thanks! I'll look for Binet at the library today (I'm desperate for new authors at the moment). Did you receive the bookplate okay?


  3. Oh yes, I received your autograph a few days ago. A postcard to tell you so is on its way, but that will take a while.
    How about looking for Stephen Fry's books? Very British and very likable. I am trying to get the 2nd part of his autobiography, called (I think) The Fry Chronicles. I am making a list of books to look for when we are in NY in October.