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The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
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Grant Wood’s interpretation of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere seems to have come straight out of a whimsical storybook.

Although I’m sure that, in reality, Paul Revere’s infamous “British are coming” proclamation was a bit more tumultuous and chaotic than what we see here, it’s hard to ignore the beauty of Wood’s interpretation of the familiar scene. He’s best known for the ultra-famous piece, American Gothic (tall, pitchfork-clad couple in rural America), however many of Wood’s paintings are actually expansive landscape scenes, within which human figures play a miniature role.

Grant Wood was, above all, a painter of American rural life. As such, he endeavored to immortalize both the monumental and mundane scenes of American history. It naturally follows that he would take interest in highlighting the story of Paul Revere. He saw this event as “a valuable and colorful part of our national heritage [that is] being lost as a result of the work of analytical historians and debunking biographers.” I’m not quite sure who would actually be debunking this history, but it makes me feel that, in addition to painting, Wood dabbled in conspiracy theories.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is a visual representation of the poem Paul Revere’s Ride by 20th-century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The events that took place on the night that Revere rode from Boston to Lexington warning of the British advance would have been largely unknown to the people of Grant Wood’s day—they didn’t have the Wikipedia, after all. They would have learned about it through Longfellow’s poem, which he wrote upon hearing the firsthand account of a relative that was alive at the time. Similarly, it was Longfellow’s passionate poetry that inspired Grant Wood to translate the story yet again into painting.

This painting is downright adorable but, historically, extremely inaccurate. The fluffy landscape, tiny figures, and floodlit rolling hills give the scene an almost magical or dream-like quality that draws you in without reprieve. The streets are glowing bright, which would be unusual at midnight with no electric street lamps, and the horse that Revere rides upon is fancifully unrealistic; it was modeled after a child’s rocking horse. All of these elements compound to present a scene that could easily be mistaken for a fairytale illustration, and if you don't fancy Nationalism, you can leave it at that! 

 

Sources

Sources

  1. “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931.” National Endowment for the Humanities. https://picturingamerica.neh.gov/downloads/pdfs/Resource_Guide_Chapters/... (accessed 3 June 2018).
  2. “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931).” Visual Arts Cork. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/paintings-analysis/paul-revere-ride-wood... (accessed 3 June 2018).
  3. Roberson, Diana Rosenthal. “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” Time in Art. https://timeinart.wordpress.com/depicting-time/4-the-midnight-ride-of-pa... (accessed 3 June 2018).

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (painting)

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is a 1931 painting by the American artist Grant Wood. It depicts the American patriot Paul Revere during his midnight ride on April 18, 1775. The perspective is from a high altitude as Revere rides through a brightly lit Lexington, Massachusetts. It was inspired by the poem "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Wood used a child's hobby horse as model for Revere's horse.

The painting is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, but is not on view as of spring, 2017.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (painting).