There is little terror in the painting because there is little life" (277).
He is, she allows, "truly charming," an epithet that would seem to be the kiss of critical death to a serious painter.
However, the academic response to Wood was not vast during the Depression.
The Literary Digest, covering him briefly in 1932, praised him for painting American subjects, and closed the article with the faint remark that "any future account of the artistic rediscovery of America must include his contribution" (14).
Grant Wood's popular and critical rise was phenomenal; his fall, mercifully after his death, was meteoric.
His early supporters cast him as the savior of American art, the man who would finally close the door against the strange cubist abstractions that were flooding from Paris into New York.In 1937, Thomas Craven wrote a far more congratulatory article for Scribner's Magazine, hailing Wood as "one of our most distinguished painters" (16).Craven decided that Wood's "highest attainments lie in the field of portraiture and figure painting..dealing unreservedly with local psychologies, he has created characters which, though rooted in the Iowa soil, belong in the gallery of American types" (21).Wood burst onto the American art scene in the thirties with his submission of American Gothic to the jury for the annual exhibition of American paintings and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago.The painting was admitted and awarded the Norman Wait Harris Bronze Medal, as well as a three hundred dollar prize, and it was quickly purchased by the Friends of American Art at the Institute for another three hundred dollars.Like other reviewers of the decade, Craven plays up to Wood's supposed simplicity of nature and artistic intent; he would not, in this time period, be credited with an ability to paint allegorically or to tell complexly layered stories on canvas.Still, Wood's popularity during the 1930's seems to be related deeply to the Depression; whether his paintings were perceived as simplistic and charming or as social commentaries, the landscapes and "gallery of American types" gave a sense of hope and grounding to people around the country during a turbulent time.Rather, she complains mildly that "no trace of hysteria, no sense of excitement lodges in Wood's Quaker temperament.No very unruly emotion, either of love or of hate, if it ever swayed him, remains unmastered." It is his ability to organize his composition so well, she suggests, that applies the "dead hand.In the Chicago Sun, Dorothy Odenheimer wrote that Wood was simply "a provincial whose vision was restricted in more than a physical sense to the rolling hills of Iowa.He had no taste, no sense of color, no feeling for texture..atmosphere, no smell of the soil, no wind in the air" ("Chicago Critic Attacks Wood's Art").