Nan Wood Graham, the model for the tight-lipped farm woman in the painting "American Gothic," died Friday in a California nursing home at age 91.
The 1930 painting by her brother, artist Grant Wood, portrays a somber, pitchfork-bearing farmer, the late Dr. Byron McKeeby, and his equally somber daughter standing before a cottage in Eldon in southeast Iowa.
The painting initially provoked controversy here, where some women protested that Mrs. Graham was poking fun at them with her dour depiction of an Iowa farm woman. One woman wrote to say Mrs. Graham's face would "sour milk."
But the painting gained wide acceptance and her popularity soared in her home state.
If her brother had gone through with his original intention of using another model, the secretarial school graduate said she would have whiled away her days as "the world's worst stenographer." Instead, she once said, "Grant made a personality out of me. I would have had a very drab life without it."
In 1924, she married real estate investor Edward Graham and they lived all over the country, eventually settling in Riverside, Calif. In 1984, widowed and going blind, she entered a Menlo Park, Calif., nursing home, ending a lifetime job as historian of her brother's work.