Painting Description and Analysis:
Grant Wood's 1931 painting The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
, painted only a year after his iconic American Gothic, is a work which demonstrated the breadth of scope, and the broad vision of this enigmatic American artist. Raised in the midwestern state of Iowa, Wood trained in various different technical skills before studying at the Art Institute of Chicago where many of his works are now housed. Journeying to Europe in the 1920s, Wood encountered the energetic and varied modernist
and avant-garde movements in France and Germany. Particularly impressed by the Munich-based movement Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), which used the aesthetics of abstraction to create an art of precision and geometric order. He also encountered the austere and earthly art of the Northern Renaissance
painters, whose fifteenth and sixteenth century works took pride of place in many museums. In the spirit of these two disparate styles Wood created his masterful Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
. Combining the blueprint-plan style of New Objectivity with an unsettling style of lighting, the artist conjures historic New England as a model town, ridden through by the seminal figure Paul Revere.
Telling the tale of Revere’s journey, wherein the rider rode from Boston to Lexington at the beginning of the Revolutionary War to warn of the British army's advance, Wood's imagined reproduction of the scene is an unpretentious and primitive vision. Yet, with curious depth and precision, this childlike image unfurls before the viewer's eyes into a tale of nation-building, myth-making, and order. Allowing the viewer to survey the lay of the land, Wood's rejection of historical accuracy or realistic verisimilitude creates a vision of a childhood story weighed down by historical and temporal distance.
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