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Moses, Grandma

Grandma Moses

Born: September 7, 1860
Greenwich, New York
Died: December 13, 1961
Eagle Bridge, New York

American painter

Grandma Moses was one of America's best-known primitive painters (artists who did not receive a formal art education).

Anna Mary's youth

Anna Mary Robertson was born in Greenwich, New York, on September 7, 1860, the third of ten children born to Russell King Robertson, a farmer, and Margaret Shannahan. She had a happy childhood and worked hard on their family farm. Her father enjoyed seeing the children's drawings and would buy them large sheets of blank newspaper upon which they could draw. The young Anna Mary loved to draw happy, colorful scenes. She only attended school in the summer due to the cold and her lack of warm clothing. At twelve she began earning her living as a hired girl at homes near the family farm.

In 1887 Anna Mary married a farm worker, Thomas S. Moses, and the couple settled on a farm in Virginia. They had ten children, five of whom died at birth. In 1907 the family moved to Eagle Bridge, New York, where Grandma Moses spent the rest of her life.

First paintings

It was on this farm in Eagle Ridge that Anna Mary painted her first painting. She was wallpapering her parlor and ran out of paper. To finish the room she put up white paper and painted a scene. It is known as the Fireboard, and it hangs today in the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont. Her husband died in 1927, and her son and daughter-in-law took over the farm. As she aged and found farm work too difficult, Grandma Moses took up embroidering pictures in yarn to fill her spare time. At the age of seventy-six, because of arthritis, she gave up embroidery and began to paint. Her early work was usually based on scenes she found in illustrated books and on Currier and Ives prints (prints made during the 1800s, showing American lives, historical events, and celebrities).

Recognition

In 1938 Grandma Moses's paintings were discovered by an art collector and engineer, Louis Caldor. He saw a few of her paintings displayed in the window of a drug store in Hoosick Falls, New York, while on vacation. He purchased these, and the next day he bought all the paintings Grandma Moses had at her farm. In October of 1939, three of these paintings were exhibited at the "Contemporary Unknown Painters" show at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Her first one-woman show was held in New York City in 1940 and immediately she became famous. Her second one-woman show, also in New York City, came two years later. By 1943 there was an overwhelming demand for her pictures, partially because her homespun, country scenes brought about wonderful feelings and memories for many people.

Most of Grandma Moses's paintings were done on pieces of strong cardboard, 24 by 30 inches or less. She regularly portrayed happy scenes of rural home life, sometimes picturing herself as a child. She also painted a number of historical pictures, usually about her ancestors, one of whom built the first wagon to run on the Cambridge Pike. In some works figures are dressed in eighteenth-century costumes, as people might have dressed in the country. Certain color schemes correspond to the various seasons: white for winter, light green for spring, deep green for summer, and brown for autumn. Among her most popular paintings are The Old Oaken Bucket, Over the River to Grandma's House, Sugaring Off, and Catching the Turkey.

Grandma Moses worked from memory, portraying a way of life she knew from experience. The people in her paintings are actively engaged in farm tasks, and, although separated, are part of the established order of seasonal patterns. In most paintings the landscape is shown as a large, scenic view and would be completed before the tiny figures were put in. Grandma Moses died on December 13, 1961.

Primitive art

Technically the work of primitive painters is distinguished by a conceptual (a general and broad view) rather than a visual or realistic and accurate approach to painting. This involves an innocent picture using a linear format (flat, one dimensional space) that portrays scenes and people with an absence of weather in the skies and shadows around shapes. Some of the strengths of primitive painting lie in the feeling for pattern that is painted into the picture and the charm of the mood that is projected from the work. In Grandma Moses's paintings the viewer often feels the joy of life illustrated in the scenes. In McDonnel's Farm (1943), for example, a group of children are shown in a circular dance at the right, while all the other figures are busily engaged in farm tasks: one man loads the hay wagon, another harvests, another cuts the grass with a hooked tool called a scythe. In her paintings there is no despair, unhappiness, or aging, yet this unrealistic view of life is presented with remarkable power.

For More Information

Biracree, Tom. Grandma Moses. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Kallir, Jane. Grandma Moses in the 21st Century. Alexandria, VA: Art Services International, 2001.

Kallir, Otto, ed. Grandma Moses: American Primitive. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1975.

Ketchum, William C., Jr. Grandma Moses: An American Original. New York: Smithmark, 1996.

Moses, Grandma. My Life's History. Edited by Otto Kallier. New York: Harper, 1952.

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Grandma Moses

Grandma Moses

Anna Mary Robertson Moses (1860-1961) was probably America's best-known primitive painter.

Anna Mary Robertson was born in Greenwich, N.Y., on Sept. 7, 1860, one of 10 children of a farmer. At 12 she began earning her living as a hired girl. In 1887 she married a farm worker, Thomas S. Moses, and the couple settled on a farm in Virginia. They had 10 children, 5 of whom died at birth. In 1907 the family moved to Eagle Bridge, N.Y., where Grandma Moses spent the rest of her life. She died on Dec. 13, 1961.

While living on the farm, Grandma Moses had embroidered pictures in yarn. At the age of 76, because of arthritis, she gave up embroidery and began to paint. Her early work was usually based on scenes she found in illustrated books and on Currier and lves prints. Her first one-woman show was held in New York City in 1940 and immediately catapulted her to fame. Her second one-woman show, also in New York, came 2 years later, and in the intervening time her colors had become more discreet and her handling of space more assured. By 1943 there was an overwhelming demand for her pictures, partially because her homespun, country scenes evoked much nostalgia.

Most of Grandma Moses' paintings were done on pieces of strong cardboard, 24 by 30 inches or less. She habitually portrayed happy bucolic scenes, sometimes depicting herself as a child. She also painted a number of history pictures, usually dealing with her ancestors, one of whom built the first wagon to run on the Cambridge Pike. In some works figures are dressed in 18th-century costumes, as people might have dressed in the country. Certain color schemes correspond to the various seasons: white for winter, light green for spring, deep green for summer, and brown for autumn. Among her most popular paintings are The Old Oaken Bucket, Over the River to Grandma's House, Sugaring Off, and Catching the Turkey.

Grandma Moses worked from memory, portraying a way of life she knew intimately. The people in her paintings are actively engaged in farm tasks, and, although individualized, are part of the established order of seasonal patterns. In most paintings the landscape is shown in a panoramic sweep and was completed before the tiny figures were put in.

Technically the work of primitive painters is distinguished by a conceptual rather than a visual approach to painting. This involves, too, a naiveté of handling based on a totally linear format, with atmospheric perspective, cast shadows, and, frequently, modeling eliminated. The strength of primitive painting lies in the feeling for pattern and the charm of the mood that is projected. In Grandma Moses' paintings the spectator comes to feel a joyous acceptance of existence. In McDonnel's Farm (1943), for example, a group of children are shown in a circular dance at the right, while all the other figures are busily engaged in farm tasks: one man loads the haywagon, another harvests, another cuts the grass with a scythe. In her paintings there is no despair, unhappiness, or aging, yet this unrealistic view of existence is presented with remarkable conviction.

Further Reading

Grandma Moses' My Life's History (1952), edited by Otto Kallir, who tape-recorded her account of her life in 1949, is dull and prosaic, and the quality of the illustrations is poor. Grandma Moses, American Primitive (1946), edited by Kallir, contains biographical extracts and facsimiles of Grandma Moses' handwritten notes used as commentaries for the illustrations; it contains little analysis of the paintings. □

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Moses, Grandma

Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses), 1860–1961, American painter, b. Washington co., N.Y., self-taught. She lived the arduous life of a farm wife, first in the Shenandoah Valley and later at Eagle Bridge, near Hoosick Falls, N.Y. In her late 70s, too frail to do hard work, she began to paint. Her pictures—called American primitives—are simple, gay scenes of farm life that struck the popular fancy and became widely known through prints and Christmas cards. She painted such subjects as The Old Oaken Bucket, Sugaring-Off, and Out for the Christmas Trees. Thanksgiving Turkey is in the Metropolitan Museum. At the age of 100 she illustrated " 'Twas the Night before Christmas" by Clement Moore (1962).

See her autobiography (1952) and study by O. Kallir (1973).

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"Moses, Grandma." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Moses, Grandma

Moses, Grandma ( Anna Mary Robertson) (1860–1961) US primitive painter. Grandma Moses only began painting when she was in her late 70s. Her scenes of country life, based on recollections from her youth, became world-famous through prints and greeting cards. Well-known examples are Out for the Christmas Tree and Thanksgiving Turkey.

http://gseart.com/moses.html

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Moses, Grandma

Moses, Grandma (1860–1961), name given to the American painter Anna Mary Robertson Moses, who took up painting as a hobby when widowed in 1927, producing more than a thousand paintings in naive style, mostly of American rural life.

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Grandma Moses

Grandma Moses: see Moses, Grandma.

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