National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; the Ruth Bowman and Harry Kahn Twentieth-Century American Self-Portrait Collection
Restrictions & Rights
Grant Wood 1892-1941
By the time Honorary Degree appeared in 1938, Wood's popular 1930 painting American Gothic, showing a man and woman standing before a house with a Gothic window, had made him a celebrity. In 1936 Wood received the first of several honorary degrees, offering him the excuse to deprecatingly play upon his celebrity. Wood appears here in the unaccustomed pomp of doctoral robes. The short, plump artist, his shoes conspicuous under his robes, keeps his feet firmly on the ground while the towering academics who confer his diploma and hood have their heads nearly in the clouds. Wood slyly points to the source of his acclaim by including a Gothic window in the background that bathes the trio in heavenly light, while the artist's hood assumes the shape of a pointed Gothic arch.