“American Gothic” has been described as the most reproduced painting in this country, which is not necessarily high praise. What artist would be elated to hear that one of his paintings had been appropriated in an advertising campaign for General Mills country cornflakes, or ­Coors beer? For most of his life, Grant Wood endured the scorn of leading art critics, who failed to recognize his refinement. He was known for one painting only, that image of a pale, homely farming pair posed in front of their white house, looking as if their dog just died. Wood painted his creaky masterpiece in 1930, amid the ravages of the Great Depression. Unable to move forward, Americans glanced back and found consolation in images of the sturdy agrarian past. Wood rose to fame as one of the three leaders of Regionalism (Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry were the other two) and, dressed in his bibbed overalls, presented himself as an antidote to East Coast pretentiousness. “All the really good ideas I’ve ever had came to me while I was milking a cow,” he said, somewhat goofily, in his most famous statement.

more from Deborah Solomon at the NYT here.