Neatorama, via MentalFloss:
American Gothic won a bronze medal and a $300 prize, was acquired by the museum, and was reproduced in newspapers around the country. Something about it resonated with audiences, and in that mysterious process by which paintings become famous, it quickly achieved near-universal recognition. (…)
With the success of American Gothic, Wood finally received the validation of his talent that he’d been seeking all his life. He was declared the founder of a new school of art, called Regionalism, and he was quick to embrace the narrative. “All the good ideas I’ve ever had came to me while I was milking a cow,” Wood famously told the press. In truth, he hated life on the farm, and was repulsed by cow udders and freshly-laid chicken eggs. (…)
Meanwhile, Wood’s tricks had finally worn thin. People were tiring of Regionalism, and Wood found it increasingly difficult to conceal his sexuality. he spent more and more time drawing the male figure, and in 1937, he produced Sultry Night. The piece showed a naked man standing next to a trough pouring a bucket of water over his body. When questioned, Wood defended the work as depicting the ordinary bathing habits of hired men on farms. The explanation fooled no one.
BONUS — the 21st century American Gothic