Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways. Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women. There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them. Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include? I welcome your suggestions. Would you like to guest blog one of the world’s outstanding women? Let me hear from you.
Today an outstanding woman who made a mark on the art world. Meet Grandma Moses.
I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.
Grandma Moses, Time Magazine, 1948
Grandma Moses was born Anna Mary Robertson in Greenwich, New York, on September 7, 1860. Anna experienced sporadic periods of schooling in her childhood. When she was 12 years old, she left her family’s farm and worked until she met and married Thomas Moses in 1887.
The couple bought a farm in the Shenandoah Valley near Staunton, Virginia. In 1905, they moved to Eagle Bridge, New York, and purchased another farm. The couple had 10 children; only five survived past infancy.
Anna’s husband died in 1927, but she continued to work the farm with her youngest son’s help. She retired to her daughter’s home in 1936, owing to her advancing age.
Following her husband’s death, Grandma Moses created worsted-embroidery pictures, but when arthritis in her seventies made needle-point too difficult, she turned to painting.
The Art World Finds a Treasure
In 1938, Grandma Moses was discovered by Louis J. Caldor, an art collector who saw her paintings in a Hoosick Falls, New York, drugstore window. Caldor was so impressed with Moses’ works that he drove to her farm and bought her remaining 15 paintings.
In October of the same year, three of those paintings were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of a show titled Contemporary, Unknown Painters. (Unknown? Seriously)
In 1939, art dealer Otto Kallir exhibited some of Grandma Moses’ works in his Gallerie Saint-Etienne in New York City. That display attracted attention from art dealers all over the world, and her work became highly prized. From then on, Moses’ paintings were shown throughout the United States and Europe in about 150 solo shows and 100 group exhibits.
Moses’ paintings were created from scenes from her childhood, such as Apple Pickers circa 1940, Sugaring-Off in the Maple Orchard circa 1940, Catching the Thanksgiving Turkey, 1943, and Over the River to Grandma’s House in 1944. Her works belonged to the American Primitive style. (See a slideshow of a few of her paintings at the end of my post. It is barely a dent)
From the age of 76, Grandma Moses created about 2,000 paintings, most of them on Masonite board. Her naive style was acclaimed for its purity of color and its attention to detail. From 1946, her paintings were often reproduced on Christmas cards and in print.
Her autobiography, My Life’s History, was published in 1952.
A Very Long Life
Grandma Moses celebrated her 100th birthday on September 7, 1960. The governor of New York proclaimed the date “Grandma Moses Day” in her honor. She lived to be 101 years old, outliving most of her children.
She died at Hoosick Falls on December 13, 1961, and is buried at the Maple Grove Cemetery in New York.
The death of Grandma Moses removed a beloved figure from American life. The directness and vividness of her paintings restored a primitive freshness to our perception of the American scene. Both her work and her life helped our nation renew its pioneer heritage and recall its roots in the countryside and on the frontier. All Americans mourn her loss.
John F. Kennedy, Grandma Moses’ New York Times obituary, 1961