AMERICAN GOTHIC meets the Butler Family

American Gothic is such an iconic image. It's been used over and over again as a jumping off point for artists, advertisers, comedians, you name it. Even I once did a knock off showing a man and his dog.

Once in a while when sorting through old snapshots I find something that makes me think of the iconic image. There's just something in the photo that captures a bit of one interpretation of the painting; usually the oddness of it. Such is the case of this photo of the Butler family. It struck me as soon as I saw it, but once home and scanned I was surprised to see the resemblance to Grant Wood.

Think of this as just a study for the painting; the idea not yet fully fleshed out.

I give you the Butler family.

Mother Butler

Father Butler

Daughter Butler...

a Grant Wood lookalike?
Click on image to see it larger.

There is just something wonderfully odd about this family "portrait."


  1. My first thought? WHY take this photograph?

    1. Well, maybe they were proud of their little bungalow, their ferns & flowers, and the vine running across the clothesline. Mama in her apron, papa with his braces, daughter in her nice flowered dress. Poor Mr. Butler, looks kinda sad, like an old hangdog.

      For a lot of people back then having a photo like this taken was a big deal. If someone offered to do it for you, you were grateful. This has the feel of something like that, rather than something they requested and paid for.

      I love this family portrait. It reminds me of the south, and a time that would have been more like recent history for me, when I was a kid.

      Is this maybe like late 1930's? So, if I were 5 years old right now it would be the equivalent of the 'recent history' of about 1980. You know like looking at family photos belonging to your parents, grandparents or family friends and having them say 'that's your great aunt Ruby on the left' and that was me 30 years ago. When I was a kid, there were still plenty of older folks around who dressed like this.

      That bungalow is also reminiscent of a lot of older homes in my hometown as well. It just all seems familiar in a way.

      Anyway, sorry for rambling! Just a wonderful image.

    2. As I recall the photo was dated 1948. Of course, I put it away and now can't find the folder it's in. I believe the "daughter" was named Elsie.

  2. It reminds me of of Gracie Clark Spinner and Her Family by Lewis Hine. But Hine didn't pose his subjects on a porch.

  3. Oh I can imagine why they took it. Just look at those flowers! MableAnn planted those back in May and wanted to record the joy of summer. Smile everybody!

    1. Indeed they are proud of that house and it's plants. And funnily enough the two plants on the left make me think of the two potted plants on the left in American Gothic. I'm guessing these folks did not see the similarity when they saw their photo.