Moses, Will 1956–
Moses, Will 1956–
Born January 7, 1956, in Cambridge, NY; son of Gerald Hugh (a farmer and machinist) and Lillian Elizabeth (a homemaker) Moses; married Sharon Andrew (a corporate administrator), October, 1977; children: Gerald, Lloyd, Georgianna. Politics: "Free thinker." Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Herbal studies, fishing, "giving advice."
Artist, illustrator, and farmer. Mount Nebo Gallery, Eagle Bridge, NY, owner and publisher of art prints, cards, and posters, 1977—. Bennington Museum, member, 1990—, and chair of board of directors, 1995-98; member of local town council, 1985-91; Mary McClellan Hospital, member of advisory board; Mary McClellan Foundation, member of board of directors. Volunteer emergency medical technician. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Bennington Museum, Cahoon Museum of American Art, Everson Museum, North Shore Art Gallery, and the libraries of U.S. Presidents Ford and Reagan. Work included in private collections at Smithsonian Institution, New York State Museum, Herrick Collection, Bob Hope Collection, and the White House.
Silent Night, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1997.
(Reteller) Rip Van Winkle (based on the story by Irving), Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(Reteller) Will Moses Mother Goose, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2003.
(Reteller) Hansel and Gretel: A Retelling from the Original Tale by the Brothers Grimm, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Clement C. Moore, The Night before Christmas, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The setting in which Will Moses produces his folk art-inspired paintings is as picturesque as the setting of many of his rural images: his studio is located in an eighteenth-century farmhouse where he overlooks the barns and pastures of his family's working farm. As a painter, he carries on a family tradition that has made him respected as a fine artist and also valued for his ability to capture and preserve a vision that is uniquely American.
Moses began painting as a child, which was no surprise to anyone in his family. His grandfather, Forrest K. Moses, was a painter, as was his great-grandmother Anna Mary Robertson, the American primitivist painter who, as Grandma Moses, has become world famous. "My grandfather Forest had a studio nearby the home where I grew up, and naturally I spent a lot of time there painting with him," Moses once recalled to SATA. A primarily self-taught artist and a prolific painter, Moses decided to embark on a career in art, bringing to his work the same sensibility as his famous ancestor. After painting and producing graphic designs for several years, Moses was inspired by his own children to begin his first picture-book project. "This was not a line of work that I necessarily envisioned myself doing," he recalled, "but nevertheless it appealed to me. Having three children myself, I have had the opportunity to review many books for children. I found a wide range in terms of quality and subjects."
Moses's books, which includes an illustrated version of Clement C. Moore's The Night before Christmas, Will Moses Mother Goose, and the retellings The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, and Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend, are designed as story books to be treasured and passed down through the generations as family heirlooms. In telling the story of the man who brought apple trees to America's frontier, Moses creates a combination of text and detailed art that, as Kathy Broderick wrote in Booklist, brings to life Massachusetts-born Johnny Appleseed's "rich adult life and celebrates his odd ways." The author/illustrator's "delicate, folk-art oil paintings capture the eccentric folk hero … as well as America at its bucolic best," added a Publishers Weekly critic. Appraising Moses's retelling of Rip Van Winkle in Publishers Weekly, a writer noted that the author/illustrator's choice of a "Hudson River backdrop … lends elegance" to the traditional yarn about the man who lays down to rest under a tree in 1769 and wakes up twenty years later to a changed world. Another tale by Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, benefits from Moses's "fluent retelling and handsome illustrations in an eminently suitable folk-art style," according to Horn Book reviewer Mary M. Burns. Noting that the artist's picture-book version of the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman "may excite interest in the original," a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Moses's primitive art serves as a "striking match" to Irving's tale.
The "cozy and quaint" paintings Moses creates to illustrate Moore's classic poem feature what School Library Journal reviewer Maureen Wade described as "striking panoramic views" of the snow-covered New England countryside, as well as the "playful details" designed to intrigue younger children. While noting that Moses draws on the style of his famous forebear, a Kirkus Reviews writer was quick to give the artist his due: his paintings for The Night before Christmas "are accom-
plished and charming on their own merits," the critic noted, adding that they meld Grandma Moses's "naïve appeal with more sophisticated perspective and composition." Another holiday favorite, the Christmas carol "Silent Night," is also brought to life in picture-book fashion, Moses's artwork creating a "mood [that] is appropriately tender," according to Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper.
While most of the stories Moses illustrates are set in North America, several, such as Hansel and Gretel: A Retelling from the Original Tale by the Brothers Grimm and his collection of Mother Goose rhymes, are rooted in Europe, and Moses is careful to preserve such roots. In Will Moses Mother Goose, for example, he collects sixty rhymes and riddles, pairing them with brilliantly colored, detailed paintings that feature what School Library Journal reviewer Kate McClelland described as a "miniature antique world peopled with nursery-rhyme characters" ranging from Humpty Dumpty to Little Bo-Peep. In his paintings for Hansel and Gretel, Moses sets Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's tale in Germany's Black Forest, and the artist's "unique contribution … comes through in innumerable subtle visual inventions" that diminish the tale's terrifying implications rather
that in "adding new elements," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. A Kirkus Reviews writer praised Moses's illustrations of the familiar story as "strong" and "atmospheric," while in Booklist Jennifer Mattson deemed Hansel and Gretel a "well-crafted retelling."
"I try to make books that I would want to read to my own kids," Moses once noted to SATA. "When I write or paint, I tend to be single-minded, focusing on the task at hand, bringing the book or painting through the creative process without too many deviations along the way. To date, I think my books seem to reflect traditional stories. I guess this is probably because of the association my art has with hearth and home values. I don't pay too much attention any more to what other authors and illustrators are doing. I don't want to be influenced by the work of others or possibly fall into doing what might be trendy at the moment. I do what I do. If people like it, and I hope they do, that's great."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 316; September 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of Silent Night, p. 141A; November 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Rip Van Winkle, p. 530; September 1, 2001, Kathy Broderick, review of Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend, p. 101; August, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Will Moses Mother Goose, p. 1986; February 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Hansel and Gretel: A Retelling of the Original Tale by the Brothers Grimm, p. 52.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1999, review of Rip Van Winkle, p. 134.
Children's Book Review Service, August, 1995, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 162.
Horn Book, March-April, 1996, Mary M. Burns, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 193.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1995, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 1112; July 1, 2001, review of Johnny Appleseed, p. 944; January 1, 2006, review of Hansel and Gretel, p. 44; November 1, 2006, review of The Night before Christmas, p. 1132.
Publishers Weekly, July 24, 1995, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 65; October 6, 1997, review of Silent Night, p. 56; June 28, 1999, review of Rip Van Winkle, p. 78; August 23, 1999, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 61; August 27, 2001, review of Johnny Appleseed, p. 83; September 23, 2002, review of Silent Night, p. 75; July 21, 2003, review of Will Moses Mother Goose, p. 193; December 19, 2005, review of Hansel and Gretel, p. 62; September 25, 2006, review of The Night before Christmas, p. 69.
Reading Teacher, November, 1998, review of Silent Night, p. 283.
School Library Journal, October, 1995, Kristin Lott, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 134; October, 1997, Jane Marino, review of Silent Night, p. 43; October, 1999, Ronald Jobs, review of Rip Van Winkle, p. 121; September, 2001, Wendy Lukehart, review of Johnny Appleseed, p. 220; September, 2003, Kate McClelland, review of Will Moses Mother Goose, p. 204; March, 2006, Kirsten Cutler, review of Hansel and Gretel, p. 210; October, 2006, Maureen Wade, review of The Night before Christmas, p. 99.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 19, 2003, review of Will Moses Mother Goose, p. 3.
Will Moses Home Page,http://www.willmoses.com (April 25, 2007).