Though these two works were created just five years apart these two works related in time as well as content regardless of their differing medium as well as purpose. The painting American Gothic, by Wood (1892-1942) depicts farmers in 1930, before the Great Depression was fully underway. While the photo Rural Rehabilitation Client, by Shahn (1899-1969), depicts recipients of s federal aid program in Arkansas in 1935, at the Depression's lowest point.
Taking the works together one might assume that the photo was taken as a study for the painting, with the only striking difference between them the placement of the wife to the left or to the right and the ages of the subjects in the works. The similarities are much more evident, as each work depicts a man and presumably his wife, in a rural setting wearing what was likely his and her best clothing and standing before their home. The participants all have similar facial expression, similar attire, and similar continence.
As one looks more closely, clearly in the Wood painting the participants have a more aged appearance and a more posh looking setting, with the picture of their nicely painted home with large decorative windows in the background. The participants are also wearing slightly more fine clothing, with the farmer wearing a wool overcoat and the wife wearing a decorative black dress with a pendant at the nape. Lastly, the farmer holding a pitchfork is also a difference that denotes empowerment. In the Shahn photograph the wife is standing to the right rather than the left, while in the other image the wife's glance, directed toward her husband denotes that she is with him and likely feels protected by him, while the wife in the contrasting photograph has a similar expression and is even facing int eh same direction it is away from her husband rather than toward him and her head is slightly farther down, almost as if she is trying to convey a feeling of dejection. …