American Gothic and the Parody!

The cover of the book, Funny Farm, by Mark Teague reminds one of another famous American painting, American Gothic, painted by American artist Grant Wood. The painting was first publicly exhibited during a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930. Although it was deemed by the judges only as a “comic Valentine”, a museum patron convinced them to award it a bronze medal and a $300 cash prize. The patron even bought the painting for the Art Institute, where it has remained. Relatively unknown until the award, Grant became instantly famous and the painting has since become an American icon and the model for countless numbers of parodies.The motivation for the painting came when Wood was visiting the small town of Eldon in his native state of Iowa. Here, the wood farmhouse with an oversized window made in a style called Carpenter Gothic, is still standing. The two people in the painting are Wood’s sister Nan and his dentist, Dr. B.H. McKeeby. Grant envisioned the couple as a father and a daughter, rather than husband and wife as it is wildly assumed!

Based on:

Funny Farm illustrated by Mark Teague


  • Paints
  • Paper


Learn about the famous American painting American Gothic by Grant Wood

Going About Your Artwork
Observe the American Gothic painting by Grant Wood and the parody rendered by Mark Teague on the cover of Funny Farm. Learn more about the history of the painting and the artist before embarking on this project. In the provided frame, draw your parody of America Gothic.What makes a parody? Use elements from the the original American Gothic painting to create your own American Gothic in the picture frame below! Mark Teague painted his using oil just like Grant Wood. If you were to make a painting of your sketch, what materials would you use to paint it?

Extension Activities

  • The background in the painting shows a farmhouse with medieval Gothic architectural style (pointed arch) window. Students can learn about the different architectural styles. David Macaulay's building books are rich architectural resources for such projects.
  • Wood was known to be inspired by the realism of Netherlandish masters such s Hans Memling. Find out more about these masters.
  • Teague was siad to be inspired by illustrators such as Chris Van Allsburg, Richard Egielski and William Joyce. Have you read books by these award-winning author-illustrators? These influences are especially observed in Teague's earlier books. Have fun comparing the styles.
  • Teague is probably most famous for his How do Dinosaur...? and LaRue books. Look at the end pages of the Dinosaur books.  Each of the illustrations for the dinosaurs is as different and unique as their names. None of them are repeated twice in any of the books! Mark Teague must have done a lot of research to come up with that many dinosaurs. How many different types of dinosaurs do you think existed? For the LaRue books, there are two stories going on simultaneously- there's the dog's version, which you can't really trust, and then the real version of whats really happening. Teague had to figure out a way to juxtapose those images, and make sure any kid could see a strong visual difference between what’s in Ike’s imagination and what’s really going on! Try your own hand at such painting!

Top banner image © 1930, Grant Wood, American Gothic, Oil on Beaver Board, Art Institute of Chicago. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright is the author's life plus 100 years or less.