Grant Wood American Gothic,
Oil on beaverboard, 1930

 
Nan Graham Wood mugging it up for the photographers.
 
Larry Flynt tells reporters. "I'm not sure what's going on. They just call me and I show up."
 
 
Art On Trial: Nan Wood Graham vs. Hustler Magazine Inc., Defendant
Collected by Steven Goss

Since its inception, American Gothic has been the inspiration for countless images, from political cartoons to marketing campaigns. While no image has achieved the far-reaching fame of the original, some have become a part of its curious history. One image to obtain that distinction is the infamous Hustler magazine parody of the painting. Predictably the Hustler cartoon is an almost exact depiction of the work, except that the farmer's daughter is topless. As entertaining as that may seem, Nan Wood Graham, sister of Grant Wood and the model for the girl in American Gothic, was not amused. In 1978, Graham, claiming that the cartoon was a defamation of her character, sued the magazine for $10 million. In this excerpt from the courtroom transcripts, Graham is cross-examined by Norman Normflatt, attorney for Hustler Magazine Inc.

MR. NORMFLATT: Is this the first time that you've brought suit against a satirical representation of American Gothic?

THE PLAINTIFF: No, it is not.

MR. NORMFLATT: Isn't it true that you have also made similar claims against Playboy and Penthouse?

THE PLAINTIFF: Yes.

MR. NORMFLATT: And for the record, what was the complaint against these publications?

THE PLAINTIFF: In my opinion they'd maliciously misrepresented the painting, making an indecent parody of it.

MR. NORMFLATT: But this painting, there have been many parodies of it. Isn't that correct Mrs. Graham?

THE PLAINTIFF: Yes.

MR. NORMFLATT: And so, if you won't mind indulging me, could you explain how you decide which parodies are appropriate and which are not.

THE PLAINTIFF: I suppose it's a matter of judgment. Some are in poor taste, other aren't.

MR. NORMFLATT: So you would say that the Hustler satire is not in good taste.

THE PLAINTIFF: Yes.

MR. NORMFLATT: Why is that?

THE PLAINTIFF: She's naked. She has breasts and they are exposed. It just isn't right.

MR. NORMFLATT: I assume that you have breasts Mrs. Graham. Is that correct?

THE PLAINTIFF: What?

MR. NORMFLATT: Please just answer the question Mrs. Graham. Is it correct that you have breasts?

THE PLAINTIFF: Of course!

MR. NORMFLATT: At any time have you ever exposed your breasts in public?

THE PLAINTIFF: No, never!

MR. NORMFLATT: Would you ever expose your breasts in public?

THE PLAINTIFF: Most certainly not!

MR. NORMFLATT: Let's say you were wearing a shirt and, just for sake of argument, it caught on fire. And to escape injury you had to take the shirt off. If this were the case, would you take your shirt off? Even if it meant exposing your breasts in public?

THE PLAINTIFF: Well, I guess. I mean, who wouldn't?

MR. NORMFLATT: But a minute ago Mrs. Graham you said you would never expose your breasts in public. Isn't that true?

THE PLAINTIFF: Yes.

MR. NORMFLATT: So now you are changing your answer and saying you would expose your breasts.

THE PLAINTIFF: If my shirt was on fire, yes.

MR. NORMFLATT: Would you blame the woman in the cartoon for taking off her shirt if it were on fire?

THE PLAINTIFF: No, I guess not.

MR. NORMFLATT: If there was a panel before this one and the woman's shirt was on fire, and then in the next panel she was topless, well you wouldn't mind that would you?

THE PLAINTIFF: I don't know.

MR. NORMFLATT: So you'd let her burn and die a horrible death?

THE PLAINTIFF: No, of course not.

MR. NORMFLATT: I have no further questions.



 
 


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