This piece of art was created in 1931 by Grant Wood. The dimensions of the painting have been measured as 81cm by 66cm, and the medium used is oil on board. The portrait features a rather old stern-faced woman, who is believed to be the artist's great aunt Matilda Peet. She is gazing directly at the viewer and is wearing a black ribbon choker around her unusually long neck, which is obviously exaggerated. The black neckband and the brooch make her look a bit more forbidding.

As with almost every other Victorian cliche painting, we can see the rotary dial telephone behind her, only partially included as if to tease the viewer and bring a sense of humor, suggesting that Great-aunt Matilda was not so traditional. The muted brownish tones and the frame that was painted around the subject all seem to recreate and imitate the old-style photographs.

Sepia Tones

The painting is done in sepia tones and this accentuates the theme of the mid-19th century. The subject has her hair pulled back with a part down the middle and is dressed down in a monochromatic theme as would be expected in those times. A keen look at her hands which are folded together on her lap in a conservative manner will reveal a ring on her left hand which is to say that she was in fact married.


This painting was originally inspired by a photograph and is seen in the portrait's rich tonal colors. The color palette and form properly resemble a 19th-century darkroom. The presence of the rotary phone, which stands in the position where a bible or a bouquet of flowers would normally be found, provides scene decoration for portraiture and disturbs the impression of a 19th-century snapshot. At the time of the creation of this painting, a rotary telephone was the most advanced model of communication and was an item that represented luxury and privilege.

Great-Aunt Matilda and the telephone are diametrically opposed in this portrait. She was described as a person who rather kept to herself closed to strangers and emotional expression, while the rotary phone represents an invasive world to which she can never adapt as an introvert.