Anniversary For An Honest Couple

Grant Wood Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

It's as if they've been standing in our front yard for the last three quarters of a century, looking back at us with that piercing expression in front of a house with an expression just as telling.

Grant Wood's "American Gothic" has become one of America's most recognizable paintings.

That doesn't mean it's the most loved. It's not the most critically acclaimed, but it is one of the most talked about, especially in the Midwest, CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan reports.

It's been 75 years since "American Gothic" was painted in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and then whisked away to Chicago. But now the couple is coming back for a visit.

And few can wait to welcome them home. Just ask Helen and Don Glausson.

For 20 years they've been dressing the part of that mystery couple and like almost everyone in this tiny town of Eldon, Iowa, they have a connection to the painting, and it's painter.

Helen's grandparents were quite literally living in the painting's backdrop; that simple house with that famous window, when Wood knocked at the door.

"He came to my grandparents and asked if he could come back and sketch the house," Helen says. "So my mother and her sisters decided they should wash the curtains and got them back up before Grant Wood came back and lo and behold, when the picture came out, the lace curtains aren't in the window."

Tourists come to check even to this day. The house hasn't changed a bit, except now there are lace curtains in the window.

So what it is that keeps this couple's still life, still thriving?

Most agree it's the intrigue behind the odd pair; their unspoken secret, their hidden drama.

"There's something not quite right here, maybe something's going on behind the curtain, maybe their relationship is a little bit weird, that maybe there is something creepy about this," says author Steven Biel.

Biel's new book details how "American Gothic" both tempted and teased a part of the country not used to being in the spotlight.

The woman, many mid-westerners thought, was far too young to be a wife of a man old enough to be her father, which raises a host of questions about who they really were.

Truth is, what became one of America's most famous front porches, Wood actually found by accident, just by driving by. And that now famous couple, man/woman, husband/wife, father/daughter, nobody's really sure just what their relationship was, well, they were never here together, not even once.

"They were never here. They weren't here at the time he painted it. They weren't photographed together until Wood died in 1942, and there was a retrospective at the Art Institute, and then they posed for a photograph next to he painting," Biel explains.

So who where they, really? Well, the woman, believe it or not, was Wood's sister, Nan.
  • Sean Alfano

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