Grant Wood, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

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"Here, Wood depicts the legendary story of the American patriot Paul Revere, as learned from an 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. From a bird’s-eye view, the painting shows Revere on horseback racing through a colonial town square in Massachusetts. Despite the work’s historical subject matter, Wood did not attempt to depict the scene with factual accuracy. The houses are overly bright, as if lit by electric light, and the dramatic moonlight casts unrealistic shadows. The stylized houses, geometric greenery, and high perspective give the painting an otherworldly or dreamlike dimension." -- The Met Museum Notes

Given the place of this event in the storehouse of national tales about the country’s origin, the painting evokes a mythic, rather than “dreamlike” or “otherworldly,” mood. “Overly bright” or “unrealistic shadows” refers more to the properties of a realistic photograph than a painting evoking an event in the national collective consciousness.

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