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Inquiring minds want to know: Who is the woman in “American Gothic?”

PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) — The new 25-foot tall tribute to a classic American painting has spurred a debate in the River City – just who is the woman in “American Gothic?”

Answers vary. Some say the woman posing next to the farmer is his sister, while others claim she’s his wife or daughter.

Peoria Riverfront Museum curator Bill Conger said artist Grant Wood used his sister Nan as the woman’s model in his legendary 1930 painting. Nan’s dress and cameo were lent to her by their mother, Hattie.

Conger notes that Nan’s expression is very similar to one her mother makes in Wood’s painting, Woman With Plants.

“We do not know for sure which role his sister was intended to be because Grant Wood himself did not seem to want the viewer to know. This is part of the mysterious quality that make this portrait as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa. Great art has the ability and tendency to ask more questions than it can answer,” said Conger.

Nan claimed she was supposed to be the farmer’s daughter, but Grant Wood himself sometimes described their relationship as father/daughter and husband/wife.

Seward Johnson’s bronze tribute to the classic painting, God Bless America,” can be seen on the Water Street side of the Peoria Riverfront Museum in downtown Peoria.

Tim Shelley

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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