December 05, 2007

Grandma Moses


Her name came up in conversation with a friend, and since I have been an admirer of her work for as long as I can remember, I thought I would share this article from Encyclopedia Britannia. She was born Mary Ann Robertson, on September 7, 1860, in Greenwich, New York, and died December 13, 1961.


"Anna Robertson had only sporadic periods of schooling during her childhood. At age 12 she left her parents' farm and worked as a hired girl until she married Thomas Moses in 1887. They first farmed in the Shenandoah Valley near Staunton, Virginia, and in 1905 moved to a farm at Eagle Bridge, New York, near her birthplace. Thomas died in 1927, and Anna continued to farm with the help of her youngest son until advancing age forced her to retire to a daughter's home in 1936.

As a child the artist had drawn pictures and coloured them with the juice of berries and grapes. After her husband died she created worsted-embroidery pictures, and, when her arthritis made manipulating a needle too difficult, she turned to painting. At first she copied illustrated postcards and Currier & Ives prints, but gradually she began to re-create scenes from her childhood, as in Apple Pickers (c. 1940), Sugaring-Off in the Maple Orchard (1940), Catching the Thanksgiving Turkey (1943), and Over the River to Grandma's House (c. 1944). Her early paintings were given away or sold for small sums. In 1939 Louis Caldor, an engineer and art collector, was impressed when he saw several of her paintings hanging in a drugstore window in Hoosick Falls, New York. He drove to her farm and bought her remaining stock of 15 paintings. In October of that year three of those paintings were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in a show titled “Contemporary, Unknown Painters.”
Making Apple Butter, oil on canvas by Grandma Moses, 1958; in The Art Institute of Chicago.
Gift of Mrs. Ignatius Jelinski, 1976.428/The Art Institute of Chicago

From the beginning Grandma Moses's work received favourable criticism. In October 1940 a one-woman show of 35 paintings was held at Galerie St. Etienne in New York. Thereafter her paintings were shown throughout the United States and Europe in some 150 solo shows and 100 group exhibits. Throughout her lifetime Grandma Moses produced about 2,000 paintings, most of them on masonite board. Her naive style (labeled “American Primitive” by art historians) was acclaimed for its purity of colour, its attention to detail, and its vigour. Her other notable paintings include Black Horses (1942), Out for the Christmas Trees (1946), The Old Oaken Bucket (1946), From My Window (1949), and Making Apple Butter (1958). From 1946 her paintings were often reproduced in prints and on Christmas cards. Her autobiography, My Life's History, was published in 1952."

*Naïve Art is the work of artists in sophisticated societies who lack or reject conventional expertise in the representation or depiction of real objects. Naïve artists are not to be confused with hobbyists, or “Sunday painters,” who paint for fun. The naïve creates with the same passion as the trained artist but without the latter's formal knowledge of methods.

9 comments:

rockync said...

I've also admired her work. Although her work has been called "child-like" and "unsophisticated" I've always thought she painted with a spiritual purity that many of her artistic cotemporaries could only dream of.

Jan said...

rockync..the thing that is really amazing is how much she accomplished at her advanced age! I think she must have been a remarkable woman!

rockync said...

She gives me hope as my age advances!

The Hermit said...

Which goes to prove that formal education is not a prerequisite for creativity.

Jan said...

hermit..and it's a good thing it isn't! ;)

Jan said...

rockync..one of my dearest friends when I was in my thirties was a wonderful lady in her nineties, and she still was able to keep up with everything that she did as a young woman, and still belonged to all of her clubs, and kept up with her chairity work, too. So, you don't have to worry as your age advances...you will probably be the same way! :)

Granny J said...

Up until about four years ago, my mother was writing verse and illustrating it for her great grandchildren. Even today, at 104 (her birthday, today!) with her memory failing badly, she still makes up little rhymes, some of them rather funny.

Jan said...

granny j..I have no doubt that your mom is an amazing lady!

Wow--that means she was still writing verse and illustrating it at 100 years of age!

I hope that she is doing well!

rockync said...

LOL Jan, but I'm not too sure I'll be that good. When I was 17 I went to the old country and I stayed for a little bit with my mother's aunt Vlasta. She was in her 80's and walked a mail route every day! It was maybe two miles from her house to town and she walked my legs off! I had to sit down halfway there and rest while she paced around waiting for me. It was too funny. I must admit, I'm in better shape now than I was then. For one thing, I quit smoking about 7 years ago. Sometimes when I'm walking in the park, I think of her and I look up to the heavens and smile.